LTLS: Analysis and simulation of the Long-Term / Large-Scale interactions of C, N and P in UK land, freshwater and atmosphere

Lead Research Organisation: NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology
Department Name: Shore

Abstract

During recent decades and centuries, pools and fluxes of C, N and P in UK ecosystems have been transformed by the spread and fertiliser-based intensification of agriculture, by atmospheric pollution, and now by fossil-fuel induced climate change. We need to understand the processes that determine these effects, in order to improve the sustainability of agriculture, preserve carbon stocks, control the eutrophication of terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems, and reduce nutrient delivery to the sea and greenhouse gas emissions. Contemporary pools of C, N and P in soils and sediments reflect processes occurring on a range of timescales (up to 1000 years or more for organic matter turnover in soils) and also over a range of spatial scales. We propose research to address long-term, large scale processing of C, N and P in the environment.
The principal objective is to account for observable terrestrial and aquatic pools, concentrations and fluxes of C, N and P on the basis of past inputs, biotic and abiotic interactions, and transport processes, in order to address the following scientific questions;
1. Over the last 200 years, what have been the temporal responses of soil C, N and P pools in different UK catchments to nutrient enrichment?
2. What have been the consequent effects on C, N and P transfers from land to the atmosphere, freshwaters and estuaries?
3. How have terrestrial and freshwater biodiversity responded to increases in ecosystem productivity engendered by nutrient enrichment at different locations?
We aim at an integrated quantitative description of the interlinked land and water pools and annual fluxes of C, N and P for the UK over time. Central to the project is the application, development and parameterisation of mechanistically-based models applicable over long timescales and at a broad spatial scale. The models will be designed to exploit the large number of existing biogeochemical data for the UK, with new targeted measurements to fill important gaps. A key ingredient is radiocarbon data for natural organic matter in soils and waters, which provide a unique means of estimating longer-term turnover rates of organic matter.
The project is organised into seven workpackages, as follows.
WP1 Data. This involves the collation and management of monitoring and survey data and literature searches. Data will be required for driving and parameterising models.
WP2 New measurements. Gap-filling information will be obtained about C & N releases from fuels, soil concentrations of C, N, P, and radiocarbon, vegetation contents of C, N and P, a major effort on soil denitrification, riverine organic matter including radiocarbon contents.
WP3 Atmospheric model. This will use a variety of data, and atmospheric physics, to describe N deposition at 5 km2 resolution for the UK from 1800 to the present, and take into account emissions from industry and agriculture.
WP4 Terrestrial models. Models will be developed and parameterised to describe (a) biogeochemical cycling of C, N and P in natural and agricultural soils, simulating losses by gaseous evasion and solute leaching, and (b) physical erosion.
WP5 Aquatic models. These will describe sediment transport of organic matter (including C, N and P), lake processing, denitrification, and groundwater transport. Point source inputs will be quantified.
WP6 Integrated Model. The IM will bring together the models from WP3-5 within a grid-based hydrological system, applicable to the whole of the UK. Through the IM we will answer Questions 1 and 2, producing temporal and spatial terrestrial and aquatic outputs for representative catchments. The IM will include estimates of uncertainty and be applicable for future scenario analysis.
WP7 Biodiversity. Model output from WP3-6 will be used to analyse terrestrial plant diversity and diatom diversity in lake sediments, thereby addressing Question 3.

Planned Impact

The results of the proposed research would bring benefits to a variety of interest-groups

Research scientists
The results will be of general value to academic researchers working to understand nutrient systematics. Those working at smaller and more detailed scales will benefit from the framework for upscaling that that our results supply. Those working at larger scales (e.g. European, global) will be able to use the synthesised temporal information. This area is more fully covered under "Academic Beneficiaries

The Informed General Public, Schools & Universities
The subject of element interactions and how they have evolved through recent historical time is likely to be of considerable general interest, especially when set against the background of social and industrial change (see below). Our results will bring together the considerable body of data generated by the UK "biogeochemical experiment", and outputs from the Integrated Model could be used to encapsulate the scientific findings, making them readily apprenhendable. We plan to begin this process through web-based activities described under Pathways to Impact. Expositions at different levels are envisaged, to inform school and university students as well as informed citizens. As well as simply providing education, the results should also enhance the Environmental Debate, by showing how different issues are interrelated, and providing quantitative measures.

Historians, economists, social scientists
The social history of the UK is an academic topic of considerable interest, and this includes research into the relationships of the human population with its landscape (e.g. "The Making of the British Landscape" by Francis Pryor). There is scope to develop this analysis in a multidisciplinary approach, linking more fully to the Natural Sciences, particularly given the huge impacts humans have had on their surroundings. But doing so requires the scientific information to be more accessible, and the outputs of the integrated modelling developed in this research might provide a means to achieve this.

Policymakers and managers
The Project Description and Pathways to Impact documents set out how the research would provide new insights and tools that could be used by policymakers, environmental managers and farmers. Contributions that our research can make include the control of freshwater nitrogen and phosphorus pollution, carbon sequestration in the uplands, the temporal responses of biodiversity change to nutrient enrichment, forecasting future responses of terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems under different policy and management scenarios while factoring in the effects of climate change, and information for cost-benefit analysis of nutrient usage (cf. EU Nitrogen Assessment). A range of organisations would benefit including Defra, EA, DARD-NI, SEPA, Scottish Government, Welsh Assembly, Forest Enterprise, Natural England, Scottish Natural Heritage, ADAS, NFU, and environmental organisations.

Economic benefits
With further research and development, the Integrated Model could be developed into a valuable tool for environmental analysis, applicable to catchments and regions outside the UK. This could lead firstly to international research contracts, but could also find application through commercial consultancies.

Publications

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Adams JL (2015) Aged riverine particulate organic carbon in four UK catchments. in The Science of the total environment

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Schillereff DN (2016) Long-term macronutrient stoichiometry of UK ombrotrophic peatlands. in The Science of the total environment

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Tipping E (2013) Nitrogen deposition effects on plant species diversity; threshold loads from field data. in Environmental pollution (Barking, Essex : 1987)

 
Description Key findings of the Macronutrients LTLS Project at the midway point. The Long-Term/Large-Scale Macronutrients Project is an investigation into how levels of nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) in UK soil and water increased during the past two centuries, how the cycles of these two elements interacted, and what effects these changes had on the UK's carbon (C) and biodiversity. The study is novel by virtue of the scales at which we work, covering the whole of the UK over a lengthy time-period. Our main achievement during the first part of the project was to construct a prototype Integrated Model, which combines separate models of C, N and P pools and fluxes in soils and waters, so as to provide a quantitative description of how the elements behave. It required the collaboration of experts in natural and agricultural terrestrial ecosystems, groundwater and surface water specialists, hydrologists, and atmospheric scientists. We now have a working model that can be improved by the analysis of existing data, and tested with independent data. New data are being gathered within the project, with the specific aim of providing independent results for model-testing. These include the sampling and analysis of soils, surface waters, and lake sediments. We are also conducting experiments to improve our understanding of atmospheric deposition in the past. The biodiversity of land and water is thought to depend at least partly on nutrient availability, and the LTLS project provides good opportunities to test this idea at a large scale. Therefore members of our team are working to model the relationships between C, N and P and species diversity of terrestrial plants, and freshwater algae in lakes and rivers.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment

 
Description This is ongoing because the project is not finished. The various research findigns are being assembled using the LTLS integrated model which wil simulate macronutrients in the whole UK up to the present. Then the modle will be used for forecasting, via scenario analysis, in conjunction with stakeholders.
Impact Types Policy & public services

 
Description ASSIST Achieving Sustainable Agricultural Systems
Amount £11,000,000 (GBP)
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2016 
End 08/2021
 
Description Land Ocean CArbon TransfEr: LOCATE
Amount £8,000,000 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/N018087/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2016 
End 08/2021
 
Title Bracken data 
Description Bracken biomass and soil macronutrient contents 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Data will be uploaded to the CEH Gateway whn complete and analysed 
 
Title Collated data on atmospheric phosphorus deposition 
Description P deposition data for 250 sites globally 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2014 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact The data have been provided in Supplementary Information to a published paper, leading several communications of interest from other researchers, including pioneers in the field 
 
Title LTLS IM River Processes Model (LTLS-IMRPM) 
Description Linked to the LTLS Integrated Model hydrology simulation, LTLS-IMRPM, provides simple simulations of in-river biogeochemical processes, including gas exchange with the atmosphere, reactions controlling pH, denitrification, organic matter decomposition, chlorophyll production, ammonia oxidation 
Type Of Material Computer model/algorithm 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The model contributes to the simulation of nutrients in UK rivers within the LTLS project, and thereby to a national-scale description of nutrient pools and fluxes over time. 
 
Title LTLS agricultural nutrient model - RothCNP 
Description National-scale 5km arable and crop nutrient production model. Modelling is led by Rothamsted Research, CEH contributes through climate and erosion. 
Type Of Material Computer model/algorithm 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The model contributes to the simulation of nutrients in UK rivers within the LTLS project, and thereby to a national-scale description of nutrient pools and fluxes over time. 
 
Title LTLS erosion model 
Description National-scale 5km sediment erosion production/yield model. The modelling is led by Lancaster University, CEH contributes hydrology. 
Type Of Material Computer model/algorithm 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The model contributes to the simulation of nutrients in UK rivers within the LTLS project, and thereby to a national-scale description of nutrient pools and fluxes over time. 
 
Title LTLS integrated model (routing component) 
Description National scale 5km nutrient routing model 
Type Of Material Computer model/algorithm 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The model contributes to the simulation of nutrients in UK rivers within the LTLS project, and thereby to a national-scale description of nutrient pools and fluxes over time. 
 
Title LTLS lake model 
Description A simple model of macronutrient processing by temperate lakes 
Type Of Material Computer model/algorithm 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Will be used to estimate the contribution of lakes to regional-scale macronutrient behaviour 
 
Title Macronutrient contents of soils 
Description See title. Data cover c 90 sites throughout northern Europe, and are valuable for ecosystem modelling. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact None as yet, paper in progress 
 
Title N14C model 
Description N14C is a model that describes the cycling of carbon nitrogen and phosphorus in natural and semi-natural ecosystems. It is parameterised with field data and will be used to simulate long-term changes in the UK. 
Type Of Material Computer model/algorithm 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Simulation of the whole UK over the Holocene, focussing on the last 200 years is planned 
 
Title Peat nutrient data 
Description Collection of carbon-nitrogen-phosphorus data for c 250 sites globally 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The data will be provided in Supplementary Information to a paper that is in preparation 
 
Title River macronutrient data 
Description Data on UK rivers for carbon nitrogen and phosphorus in dissolved and particulate fractions, and radiocarbon 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Data will be uploaded to the CEH Gateway when complete, and also published in research papers. 
 
Title UK atmospheric deposition data 1800-2010 
Description Collection of nitrogen and sulphur deposition data for the UK at a 5 km grid resolution 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The data will be provided in for collaborative work once they have been thoroughly checked and an initial paper published; medium-term, we plan to make the data widely available for downloading (with data doi) 
 
Title UK soil data 
Description Macronutrient and radiocarbon data for c 80 UK soils, topsoil and subsoil. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact These data will be transferred to the EIDC HUb when complete. 
 
Title Upland surface waters database 
Description Water chemistry of UK upland waters, including nutrients, for model testing 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Application in progress 
 
Description Application of LTLS in India 
Organisation Indian Council of Agricultural Research
Department ICAR-Indian Institute of Soil Science
Country India 
Sector Learned Society 
PI Contribution Evaluation of the LTLS modelling approach for a large river basin (Cauvery) in S India
Collaborator Contribution The partner is Prof Sekhar Muddhu, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore (note NOT ICAR as shown above, but IISc was not an option in the drop down) Collaborative work on modelling water and nutrients in the Cauvery River catchment
Impact We will be making an application for a grant under the Newton-Bhabha scheme
Start Year 2016
 
Description CEH National Capability project proposals 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council
Department Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The modelling capabilities developed in the LTLS project will be used in new NC research on land-ocean carbon transfers and sustainable farming.
Collaborator Contribution The collaborators will carry out field work and complementary modelling.
Impact Proposals have been submitted, outcomes awaited.
Start Year 2015
 
Description ERC proposal on global soils 
Organisation Lancaster University
Department Department of Geography
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Development of the ecosystem models used in the LTLS project to provide a fuller description of soil formation.
Collaborator Contribution The proposal is led by Prof J Quinton of Lancaster University.
Impact No outcomes yet, proposal in review.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Modelling German forest ecosystems: proposal 
Organisation Thünen Institute of Forest Ecosystems
Country Germany 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution The LTLS team modelling semi-natural ecosystems will apply their model to sites in Germany being investigated in relation to P availability in a DFG programme (SPP1685)
Collaborator Contribution The German partners will provide data, collaborate on the interpretation of results.
Impact The proposal was submitted 15 Feb 2016, outcome by May.
Start Year 2016
 
Description SARIC LTLS-FARM proposal 
Organisation Lancaster University
Department Department of Geography
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution CEH staff led by Dr V Bell will collaborate in the modelling of UK farmed landscapes
Collaborator Contribution The partners, led by Dr Jessica Davies, will contribute other aspects of the modelling
Impact Proposal under review
Start Year 2016
 
Description Soil Security grant proposal 
Organisation Lancaster University
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We have colloaborated with others (Roth Res, JHI, Universities) on a proposal to the NERC Soil Security programme, for research that follows directly from the LTLS project
Collaborator Contribution See abaove
Impact Grant proosal to NERC
Start Year 2014
 
Description Stakeholder Workshop #2 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact We will hold a close-of-project workshop to inform Stakeholders about the project outcomes, and discuss how to take things forward, in march 2016
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.ltls.org.uk
 
Description Stakeholder discussion about river modelling 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact We held a workshop to discuss model outputs from the LTLS Integrated model with staff from the Environment Agency and SEPA.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Stakeholder workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact We discussed scenario analysis based on the LTLS project with Stakeholders from Government Departments, the Water Industry, NFU etc. We agreed that the Stakeholders would participate in the analysis during 2015.

The workshop highlighted the project to the Stakeholders, and helped the research team to plan the analysis.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.ltls.org.uk