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  • Spatial and temporal patterns of anthropogenic influence in a large river basin. A multidisciplinary approach
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Evaluation of a spatialized agronomic model in predicting yield and N leaching at the scale of the Seine-Normandie Basin

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The EU directive has addressed ambitious targets concerning the quality of water bodies. Predicting water quality as affected by land use and management requires using dynamic agro-hydrogeological models. In this study, an agronomic model (STICS) and a hydrogeological model (MODCOU) have been associated in order to simulate nitrogen fluxes in the Seine-Normandie Basin, which is affected by nitrate pollution of groundwater due to intensive farming systems. This modeling platform was used to predict and understand the spatial and temporal evolution of water quality over the 1971–2013 period. A quality assurance protocol (Refsgaard et al. Environ Model Softw 20: 1201–1215, 2005) was used to qualify the reliability of STICS outputs. Four iterative runs of the model were carried out with improved parameterization of soils and crop management without any change in the model. Improving model inputs changed much more the spatial distribution of simulated N losses than their mean values. STICS slightly underestimated the crop yields compared to the observed values at the administrative district scale. The platform also slightly underestimated the nitrate concentration at the outlet level with a mean difference ranging from −1.4 to −9.2 mg NO3 L−1 according to the aquifer during the last decade. This outcome should help the stakeholders in decision-making to prevent nitrate pollution and provide new specifications for STICS development.

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This project received funding from the Seine-Normandie Water Agency (AESN) and the PIREN-Seine program. We thank also the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.

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Correspondence to N. Beaudoin.

Additional information

Responsible editor: Marcus Schulz




Fig. 10

General geographic overview of the investigated area: the Seine-Normandie Basin


Fig. 11

Spatial variability, as provided by the SAFRAN atmospheric analysis system over the 1971–2013 simulation period of a the annual rainfall and b the daily mean air temperature


Fig. 12

Localization of the seven agricultural districts and variability of common wheat management per district: a definition of agricultural districts according to a AMU main crop typology (D1 Eastern limestone plateau, D2 Morvan, D3 Ardennes and wet Champagne, D4 Northern Normandie and Caen Plain, D5 Western Normandie, D6 Picardie, Brie, and chalky Champagne, D7 Southern Paris Basin (including Beauce), Al alfalfa, CW common wheat, Fw fallow, GM grain maize, PM permanent meadow, Po potato, R rapeseed, SBa spring barley, SBe sugar beet, SM silage maize, TM temporary meadow, Ve vegetables, Vi vineyard, WB winter barley), b variability of common wheat sowing dates per agricultural district, and c variability of management sequences of common wheat. Common wheat is sown earlier in the East of the Basin (D1, D2, D3), due to a colder climate than in the Western Basin (D4, D5). Common wheat could be sown late in November (D6, D7) when previous sugar beets are harvested in late autumn. We observed that common wheat management is different from a district to another. Wheat straws are often exported in cattle-rearing areas (D5, D2). Average yields are lower in the East of the basin (D1, D2) because of the shallow soils and relative cold winter due to high altitude. A high variability of mineral nitrogen fertilization is noticed, depending of parameters like previous crop, organic fertilization, potential yield, and farmers strategies


Fig. 13

Maps of soil water properties: a plant available water (PAW) and b water holding capacity (WHC)


Fig. 14

Map of the mean renewal rate of water in soil (R = D / WHC)

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Beaudoin, N., Gallois, N., Viennot, P. et al. Evaluation of a spatialized agronomic model in predicting yield and N leaching at the scale of the Seine-Normandie Basin. Environ Sci Pollut Res 25, 23529–23558 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-016-7478-3

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  • Cropping system
  • Nitrate pollution
  • Water drainage
  • Nitrogen leaching
  • Quality assurance