Nitrate leaching under climate change

Climate change may alter the services ecosystems provide by changing ecosystem functioning. As ecosystems can also resist environmental perturbations, it is crucial to consider the different processes that influence resilience.  “Climate proofing” can identify potential climate-related threats to ongoing delivery of ecosystem services. Dr. Katri Rankinen and colleagues have published a new study modelling the potential for increased nitrate(NO3) concentrations in drinking water due to climate change. They analyzed catchment-scale changes in ecosystem services connected to water purification in southern Finland by combining climate change scenarios with process-based forest growth (PREBAS) and eco-hydrological (PERSiST and INCA) models. By using the aforementioned model chain, they improved traditional model calibration by including timing of forest phenology and duration of the snow-covered period from networks of cameras and satellite data. They upscaled the combined modelling results with scenarios of population growth to produce vulnerability maps. Their results show that boreal ecosystems seemed to be strongly buffered against increased NO3 leaching by a combination of increases in evapotranspiration and vegetation NO3 uptake. Societal vulnerability varied greatly between scenarios and municipalities. The most vulnerable areas were agricultural regions on permeable soil types.