Modelling nutrient fluxes from sub-arctic basins: comparison of pristine vs. dammed rivers

Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2008
AuthorsSferratore, A, Billen, G, Garnier, J, Smedberg, E, Humborg, C, Rahm, L
JournalJournal of Marine Systems
Start Page236
Date Published2008
Mots-clésArctic pristine rivers, Damming, Kalixälven, Luleälven, Nutrients, river modelling

The deterministic Riverstrahler model of river functioning is applied for the first time to sub-arctic catchments. Seasonal nutrient (N, P, Si) deliveries to the coastal zone are simulated, and nutrient annual fluxes are established for the nearly pristine river Kalix (hereafter called Kalixälven) and the heavily dammed river Lule, (hereafter called Luleälven) both located in Northern Sweden and draining into the Bothnian Bay, Baltic Sea.

For Kalixälven simulations are performed with a runoff calculated from precipitation, evapo-transpiration and temperature data for the period 1990–1999, using a hydrological model calibrated on observed monthly discharges at the river outlet. The same hydrological parameters are used to calculate specific runoff for the Luleälven basin in absence of dam regulation. Reservoir filling and emptying are simulated using a simplified representation of their management rules. Diffuse sources of nutrient are evaluated according to land cover of the catchment. The simulated seasonal trends are within the range of the observed data, in particular for discharge, dissolved silica, total phosphorus, inorganic nitrogen and total organic carbon. Specific runoff is 50% higher in the Luleälven than in the Kalixälven watershed due to higher altitudes and precipitations. Average silica, nitrate and phosphorus concentrations are much lower in Luleälven than in Kalixälven. Comparison of model results for the Luleälven with and without dams shows a reduction of respectively 25% and 30% in silica and phosphorus fluxes delivered at the outlet, while nitrogen delivery is increased by 10% in the dammed vs. undammed river system. The model allows assessing the respective role of reservoir trapping of nutrient in the reservoir through algal uptake and sedimentation, and of changes in the vegetation induced by flooding the valley formerly covered by forests and wetlands.