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The effect of gypsum on phosphorus losses at the catchment scale

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Title: The effect of gypsum on phosphorus losses at the catchment scale
Author: Ekholm, Petri; Jaakkola, Elina; Kiirikki, Mikko; Lahti, Kirsti; Lehtoranta, Jouni; Mäkelä, Visa; Näykki, Teemu; Pietola, Liisa; Tattari, Sirkka; Valkama, Pasi; Vesikko, Ljudmila; Väisänen, Sari
Belongs to series: The Finnish Environment 33/2011
ISSN: 1796-1637
ISBN: 978-952-11-3956-7
Abstract: The ability of novel measures to reduce the loss of phosphorus from fields to surface waters is seeing increasing testing. Gypsum, by elevating the ionic strength in soil solution, has been shown to reduce phosphorus losses from Finnish soils under laboratory conditions. This report presents the results of a catchment-scale gypsum experiment. In a 2.45 km2 catchment in southern Finland, 91% of the field area (93 out of 101 hectares, mostly on clayey soils) was amended with gypsum after the harvest in 2008. Runoff volume and quality (e.g., turbidity, nutrients, cations, and anions) were monitored for six high-flow periods in February 2008 to November 2010 – i.e., before, during, and after the amendment – by means of on-line sensors and manual sampling. Additional data were collected by a local water protection association at the site and in a nearby ‘reference’ catchment where gypsum was not used. Moreover, the effect of gypsum was simulated with the ICECREAM model and scaled for the clay fields in the catchment of the Archipelago Sea via the assessment tool VIHMA. Potential changes in soil chemistry were monitored with soil analyses. Finally, the impact on lakes caused by sulphate lost from gypsum was studied by means of laboratory soil and sediment incubations. The turbidity recorded by the on-line sensors from the runoff correlated with the concentration of particulate phosphorus analysed in the laboratory, which enabled the evaluation of changes in particulate phosphorus loss from the on-line data. Using a covariance model with gypsum application as a qualitative and runoff volume as a quantitative variable, we approximated gypsum as having reduced the loss of particulate phosphorus by 57 %. The loss of dissolved reactive phosphorus decreased by approximately one third. The total phosphorus reduction was about 54 %. According to the ICECREAM model, the reduction in total phosphorus was 45 %. No corresponding changes were found in the reference catchment. Gypsum did not affect soil test values for phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, or calcium but did increase the ionic strength and sulphur in soil. The proportion of gypsum lost in runoff could not be estimated precisely, because there were insufficient background data on sulphate losses. At maximum, 45 % of the gypsum was lost, as calculated from conductivity values recorded by the sensors. Since sulphate may aggravate eutrophication in sulphate-poor lakes, the sulphate lost from gypsum may restrict extensive gypsum application to only those catchments discharging directly into the Baltic Sea. Fortunately, most clayey fields in Finland with a risk of erosion are located in the coastal catchments without a great presence of lakes. As an example, the application of gypsum on all clayey fields used for cereals or high-value crops in the catchment of the Archipelago Sea could reduce the total phosphorus load by 68 t y−1, as calculated with the assessment tool VIHMA. That would be more than half of the national target (120 t y−1) for this sea area. The duration of the gypsum effect and impact of gypsum-derived sulphate on the ecology of rivers and lakes has yet to be determined.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10138/37061
Date: 2011

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