The agricultural catchment scale – arena for understanding systems and for collaboration on solutions for improved environment

Senast ändrad: 27 september 2018

Av Katarina Kyllmar

The catchment scale is excellent for collaboration concerning many aspects. In the catchment several scientific disciplines are integrated such as biogeochemistry, soil science, hydrology and crop production management but also economy and social sciences. The catchment is also an arena where various stakeholders can meet and discuss how to reduce environmental impact of agriculture and at the same time secure productivity.

The environmental monitoring programme ‘Small agricultural catchments’ consists of eight intensively monitored catchments and 12 complementary catchments. The programme has been running for more than 25 years and provide detailed information on water quality in surface waters and groundwater, water discharge and agricultural management at field scale. The national, intensively monitored catchments are run by SLU on behalf of the Swedish EPA, whereas the others are run by counties and municipalities. The catchments act as indicators on environmental impact of agriculture on water and changes over time. The infrastructure with monitoring stations, long-term databases and staff running the programmes also provides an excellent resource for research that can be further explored.

In the lecture, some examples will be given on knowledge achieved from studying these agricultural monitoring catchments such as how climate, geohydrology and agricultural production affects nutrient losses to surface waters and water quality in groundwater.

Implementation of mitigation measures has so far mostly been done individually by farmers but the collaborative approach in small catchments is increasing. Municipalities and water councils are often coordinating and supporting these activities in the context of adaptive water management as required by the EU water directive. This iterative approach for improving water quality in surface waters and groundwater relies on supporting tools such as: (1) databases on the efficiency of individual measures under various climatic and geohydrological conditions; (2) methods for identification of risk areas concerning losses of nutrients and appropriate mitigation measures; and (3) a system for environmental monitoring and assessment that with short delay can give indications on the progress not only in efforts but also in expected impact in the environment. Such system will also act as a learning tool for the society in understanding how to improve the environment.

For further improvement of the environment, not only nutrient losses has to be included. Climate change adaption is already here and while mitigate climate effects as drought and flooding by providing more buffering capacity in the landscape, other aspects as landscape diversity and hence biodiversity has to be included for a sustainable production in a landscape that is really resilient to changes.


Katarina Kyllmar, Forskningsledare
Institutionen för mark och miljö, SLU, 018-672597