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Drainage and N-leaching in alluvial soils under agricultural land uses:Implications for the implementation of the EU Nitrates Directive

AuthorsArauzo, Mercedes CSIC ORCID; Valladolid, María CSIC ORCID
Alluvial soil
Gee Passive Capillary Lysimeter
Diffuse pollution
Nitrate Vulnerable Zones
Issue Date1-Oct-2013
CitationAgriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 179: 94–107 (2013)
AbstractAlluvial areas are particularly vulnerable to drainage and N-leaching from agriculture, with a subsequentimpact on the quality of alluvial aquifers.An analysis of the influence of the physical environment and soil usage on the vertical processesinvolved in nitrogen transport through the vadose zone of three different agricultural plots was con-ducted over 40 consecutive months. To achieve this, six monitoring stations were equipped with a GeePassive Capillary Lysimeter, three FDR probes and a rain gauge and connected to a data-logger whichrecorded relevant data on an hourly basis throughout the experiment. The Gee Lysimeter is a relativelynew device that allows the direct, continuous measurement of deep drainage in the field and also enablesdrainage water to be sampled for chemical analysis.The study area was located in the middle and lower sections of the Oja Alluvial Aquifer (Oja-Tiróncatchment, Spain). This alluvial aquifer was selected because it constitutes a good example of a mass ofwater chronically affected by nitrate pollution from agricultural sources. In accordance with the require-ments of the EU Nitrates Directive, a surface area of 94.3 km2was declared a Nitrate Vulnerable Zone(NVZ), corresponding to 39% of the alluvial area of the Oja-Tirón catchment.A combination of factors associated with the physical substrate (soil texture, infiltration rate, fieldcapacity) and the agricultural use (under conventional or ecological production systems) determined thefinal nitrogen leaching load from each plot. The plots located in the middle section of the aquifer (sites 1and 2, with shallow, stony soils) generated more intensive drainage and higher N-leaching than the plotlocated in the lower section (Site 3, with a deep, fine textured soil), where there was no drainage, norN-leaching. Paradoxically, the Site 3 plot was the only one found within the NVZ designated perimeter.It was also observed that when the degree of vulnerability associated with the textural characteristics ofthe substrate was high, drainage and N-leaching could be affected by the agricultural production model.These results support the proposal of Arauzo et al. (2011) to designate, as a general criterion, the entirealluvial area as a NVZ.
Description14 páginas, 7 figuras y 7 tablas. The authors would like to thank the farmers involved in the study, Mr. Jesús Ochoa, Mr. Carlos Metola, Mr. Ángel Samaniego and Mr.Gonzalo Samaniego, for their committed participation.
Publisher version (URL)http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2013.07.013
Appears in Collections:(ICA) Artículos
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