Projects per year
Rivers export increasing amounts of nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) to the coastal waters of China. This causes eutrophication problems that can damage living organisms when oxygen levels drop and threaten human health through toxic algae. We know that these problems result from human activities on land such as agriculture and urbanization. However, the relative importance of these human activities for river export of nutrients to Chinese seas is not well studied. There are two important issues that need further investigation: the relative importance of upstream pollution on downstream impacts and the relative importance of typical sources of nutrients in Chinese rivers that are often ignored in existing modeling studies.
My PhD thesis, therefore, aims to better understand trends in river export of nutrients to the coastal waters of China by source from sub-basins, and the associated coastal eutrophication. To this end, I developed the MARINA model: Model to Assess River Inputs of Nutrients to seAs. For this, I used the existing Global NEWS-2 model (Nutrient Export from WaterSheds) as a starting point.
I formulated five sub-objectives to achieve the main objective:
To analyze the original Global NEWS-2 model for river export of nutrients and the associated coastal eutrophication (Chapter 2);
To develop a sub-basin scale modeling approach to account for impacts of upstream human activities on downstream water pollution, taking the Pearl River as an example (Chapter 3);
To quantify the relative share of manure point sources to nutrient inputs to rivers at the sub-basin scale (Chapter 4);
To quantify the relative share of sources to river export of nutrients at the sub-basin scale (Chapter 5);
To explore optimistic futures to reduce river export of nutrients and coastal eutrophication in China (Chapter 6).
The study area includes rivers draining roughly 40% of China. This includes the most densely populated areas, and areas with intensive economic activities. The rivers include the Yangtze (Changjiang), Yellow (Huanghe), Pearl, Huai, Hai and Liao. In the MARINA model, the drainage areas of the large Yangtze, Yellow and Pearl rivers are divided into up-, middle- and downstream sub-basins. The principle of the sub-basin approach of MARINA is that nutrients from human activities are transported by tributaries to outlets of sub-basins and then to the river mouth (coastal waters) through the main channel. The model takes into account nutrients that are partly lost or retained during transport towards the river mouth. The model quantifies river export of nutrients by source from sub-basins for 1970, 2000 and 2050.
The main six findings of the MARINA results for China are:
Finding 1: Dissolved N and P export by Chinese rivers increased by a factor of 2-8 between 1970 and 2000;
Finding 2: The potential for coastal eutrophication was low in 1970 and high in 2000 in China;
Finding 3: Most dissolved N and P in Chinese seas is from middlestream and downstream human activities;
Finding 4: Manure point sources are responsible for 20-80% of dissolved N and P in Chinese rivers;
Finding 5: In the future, river export of nutrients may increase in the Global Orchestration (GO) scenario of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. Current policy plans (CP scenario) may not sufficient to avoid this increase;
Finding 6: In optimistic scenarios (OPT-1 and OPT-2), the potential for coastal eutrophication is low in 2050, mainly as a result of assumed full implementation of: (1) high recycling rates of animal manure (OPT-1 and OPT-2), and (2) high efficiencies of nutrient removal in sewage systems (OPT-2, see Figure 1).
Figure 1. Illustration of future scenarios for coastal water quality in China. GO is Global Orchestration of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and assumes environmental actions that are either absent or ineffective in reducing water pollution. CP is based on GO, but incorporates the “Zero Growth in Synthetic Fertilizers after 2020” policy. OPT-1 and OP-2 are optimistic scenarios that assume high nutrient use efficiencies in agriculture (OPT-1, OPT-2) and sewage (OPT-2).
My PhD thesis reveals novel insights for effective environmental policies in China. It shows the importance of manure point sources in water pollution by nutrients. Clearly, managing this source will likely reduce coastal eutrophication in the future. Furthermore, the implementation of advanced technologies is essential when dealing with urban pollution. My PhD thesis may also be useful for other world regions with similar environmental problems as in China. The new, sub-basin scale MARINA model is rather transparent and thus can be applied to other large, data-poor basins that may benefit from the allocation of effective management options. With this I hope to contribute to future availability of sufficiently clean water for next generations, not only in China, but also in other world regions.
|Qualification||Doctor of Philosophy|
|Award date||13 Dec 2016|
|Place of Publication||Wageningen|
|Publication status||Published - 2016|
- cum laude
- coastal water
- coastal areas
- water pollution