Water resources protection and management is an important objective in the European and Swedish legislation: Water Framework Directive since 2000, Nitrates Directive since 1991, the Helsinki Commission’s Baltic Sea Action Plan since 2007 and the Swedish Zero Eutrophication and Good-Quality Groundwater objectives since 2001. These policies are all aimed at improving chemical and ecological quality of inland and coastal waters and preventing any future deterioration by identifying waters at risk of pollution, implementing emission limits, quality standards and strategic management and action plans. Despite these significant scientific, management and financial efforts, improvement in chemical and ecological status of water bodies is not satisfactory.
The reason for this is our limited scientific understanding of complex land-water interactions, including sources, pathways and impacts of the pollutants on water bodies. As some sources of water pollution are easier to tackle e.g. point sources from sewage treatment works, others including diffuse pollution of excess nutrients (mainly phosphorus and nitrogen) from agricultural land are more difficult to control. As there is a growing food demand, the negative agricultural impacts on environment are also likely to increase. Thus, to achieve sustainable food production along with reinstating good ecological and chemical status of waters, we need to improve our understanding of how agricultural catchments transform nutrients to signals observed in receiving waters. To achieve this objective there is a growing need for improved evidence of critical source areas of diffuse pollution in agricultural catchments through improved monitoring tools.
To address this research need, we evaluate the potential and limitations of the use of in situ optical sensors (turbidity and fluorescence) as a proxy for nutrient measurements at high spatial and temporal resolution in agricultural catchments. This comprehensive evaluation will be conducted in 21 agricultural catchments within the Swedish Monitoring Programme for Agriculture and would involve high-resolution sampling of nutrients and spectroscopic parameters. The research work will be conducted at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, a world leading university in the field of agricultural and environmental sciences, by a group of research experts in in situ nutrient monitoring, fluorescence spectroscopy, identification of hot-spots of diffuse pollution and modelling agricultural impacts on water systems.
Novel and cost-effective monitoring technologies like the one evaluated here are needed to improve our understanding of the impacts of agriculture on the environment. The application of in situ fluorescence sensors in agricultural catchments will provide tools and empirical evidence for effective targeting of hot-spots of diffuse pollution and effective decision making. As a result, it would contribute to European and Swedish economy and society and will help to address environmental objectives. The project explicitly addresses an important research topic identified by Stiftelsen Oscar och Lili Lamms Minne of water protection and agricultural impacts on aquatic ecosystems.|