Climate, Hydrochemistry and Economics of Surface-water Systems (CHESS): adding a European dimension to the catchment modelling experience developed under LOIS

One achievement of the UK Land-Ocean Interaction Study (LOIS) was to link dynamic biogeochemical models of different domains, e.g. rivers, estuaries and coastal waters, and to use the linked model to investigate possible changes from the current status that might occur in the future, for example as the result of climate change. The Climate, Hydrochemistry and Economics of Surface-water Systems (CHESS) project has taken the LOIS methodology forward by exploring possible impacts of climate change on the water quality of European rivers, with the purpose of informing future catchment management. This was achieved by the application of a standard modelling framework to a set of five European catchments located in Finland (River Vantaa), United Kingdom (Yorkshire Ouse), Belgium (Dender), Italy (Enza) and Greece (Pinios). Baseline conditions were simulated using existing meteorological data from the period 1961-1990, and in all cases the modelling framework was able to reproduce key features of the flow and water quality regimes of the study catchments. The modelling framework comprised two models. The Soil Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) was used to simulate water and chemical fluxes, primarily nutrients and sediment, generated from diffuse areas and thereby provide sub-catchment inputs to an in-stream water quality model, the Quality Evaluation and Simulation Tool for River Systems (QUESTOR). QUESTOR integrated the diffuse runoff along the channel network, together with point source discharges from industry and sewage treatment works, and water ions for public supply, industry and agriculture. The modelling framework has been used for the baseline conditions, along with a set of six climate scenarios. These comprised four scenarios derived from different general circulation models (GCMs) representing the 2050s, and three scenarios from the same GCM representing the 2020s, 2050s and 2080s, with one scenario in both groups. Results have been explored using a range of measures to reflect the different stakeholder interests within and beyond the catchment. The results reflect the variability in present day conditions (e.g. climate, soils, agriculture and industry), and the variability in the climate scenarios, both between-catchment and between-scenario. Specific examples are: the loss of the spring snowmelt causing high flows on the Vantaa; a decrease in the already very low summer flows on the Pinios; and significant seasonal changes in nutrient losses, even though the annual change is small.

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