Phosphorus and nitrogen fluxes carried by 21 Finnish agricultural rivers in 1985–2006

  • Petri EkholmEmail author
  • Katri Rankinen
  • Hannu Rita
  • Antti Räike
  • Heidi Sjöblom
  • Arjen Raateland
  • Ljudmila Vesikko
  • José Enrique Cano Bernal
  • Antti Taskinen


The Finnish Agri-Environmental Programme aims to reduce nutrient load to waters. Using national monitoring data, we estimated the agricultural load (incl. natural background) of total phosphorus (TP) and total nitrogen (TN) transported by 21 Finnish rivers to the northern Baltic Sea and analysed the flow-adjusted trends in the loads and concentrations from 1985 to 2006. We also related the loads to spatial and temporal patterns in catchment and agricultural characteristics. Agricultural load of TN increased, especially in the rivers discharging into the Bothnian Bay, while the load of TP decreased in most of the rivers, except those discharging into the Archipelago Sea. The trends may partly be related to a decrease in grassed area (TP, TN) and increased mineralisation (TN), but the available data on catchment and agricultural characteristics did not fully explain the observed pattern. Our study showed that data arising from relatively infrequent monitoring may prove useful for analysing long-term trend. The mutual correlation among the explaining variables hampered the analysis of the load generating factors.


Agriculture Catchment Nitrogen Phosphorus River Trend Agri-environmental measures 



We would like to thank the Ministry of the Environment, the Finnish Field Drainage Association, Maa- ja Vesitekniikan Tuki ry and the EU Erasmus programme for financially supporting this study. We are grateful to Jukka Aroviita for commenting on the manuscript and Hannu Sirviö, Niina Kotamäki and Heli Rita for the help with Proc Mixed.

Compliance with ethical standards

We see no ethical issues or potential conflicts of interest in this research.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Petri Ekholm
    • 1
    Email author
  • Katri Rankinen
    • 1
  • Hannu Rita
    • 2
  • Antti Räike
    • 1
  • Heidi Sjöblom
    • 1
  • Arjen Raateland
    • 1
  • Ljudmila Vesikko
    • 1
  • José Enrique Cano Bernal
    • 1
  • Antti Taskinen
    • 1
  1. 1.Finnish Environment Institute SYKEHelsinkiFinland
  2. 2.University of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland

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