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Hindcasting of nutrient loadings from its catchment on a highly valuable coastal lagoon: the example of the Fleet, Dorset, UK, 1866–2004

Author(s): Weber Geraint | O'Sullivan Patrick | Brassley Paul

Journal: Saline Systems
ISSN 1746-1448

Volume: 2;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 15;
Date: 2006;
Original page

Abstract Background Nutrient loadings from its catchment upon The Fleet, a highly valuable coastal lagoon in Southern England, were hindcast for the period AD 1866–2004, using a catchment model, export coefficients, and historical data on land use changes, livestock numbers, and human population. Agriculture was the main nutrient source throughout, other inputs representing minor contributions. Permanent pasture was historically the main land use, with temporary grassland and cereals increasing during the mid-20th century. Sheep, the main 19th century livestock, were replaced by cattle during the 1930s. Results Total nitrogen loadings rose from ca 41 t yr-1 during the late 19th century to 49–54 t yr-1 for the mid-20th, increasing to 98 t yr-1 by 1986. Current values are ca 77 t yr-1. Total phosphorus loads increased from ca 0.75 t yr-1 for the late 19th century to ca 1.6 t yr-1 for the mid-20th, reached ca 2.2 t yr-1 in 1986, and are now ca 1.5 t yr-1. Loadings rose most rapidly between 1946 and 1988, owing to increased use of inorganic fertilisers, and rising sheep and cattle numbers. Livestock were the main nutrient source throughout, but inputs from inorganic fertilisers increased after 1946, peaking in 1986. Sewage treatment works and other sources contribute little nitrogen, but ca 35% of total phosphorus. Abbotsbury Swannery, an ancient Mute Swan community, provides ca 0.5% of total nitrogen, and ca 5% of total phosphorus inputs. Conclusion The Fleet has been grossly overloaded with nitrogen since 1866, climaxing during the 1980s. Total phosphorus inputs lay below 'permissible' limits until the 1980s, exceeding them in inner, less tidal parts of the lagoon, during the 1940s. Loadings on Abbotsbury Bay exceeded 'permissible' limits by the 1860s, becoming 'dangerous' during the mid-20th century. Phosphorus stripping at point sources will not significantly reduce loadings to all parts of the lagoon. Installation of 5 m buffer strips throughout the catchment and shoreline will marginally affect nitrogen loadings, but will reduce phosphorus inputs to the West Fleet below 'permissible' limits. Only a combination of measures will significantly affect Abbotsbury Bay, where, without effluent diversion, loadings will remain beyond 'permissible'.
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