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Journal Articles Science of the Total Environment Year : 2007

A long-term view of nutrient transfers through the Seine river continuum


A model (the Riverstrahler model) is used to describe nutrient transfer and transformation at the scale of the whole drainage network of the Seine based on information concerning the basic mechanisms governing N, P and Si inputs to the drainage network and in-stream transformation and retention. It was used to calculate the budget of these nutrients through the whole river continuum from land to sea. With the help of historical documents, the constraints used as forcing function in this model were reconstructed to express the changing conditions of land-use and urban population over the last five hundred years. The corresponding scenarios were run for different hydrological regimes including dry, mean and wet conditions. The results were validated on the long-term series of nutrient measurements spanning more than a century available at some stations on the Seine, upstream and downstream of the city of Paris. The model was also used to explore past and future trends in nutrient loading, retention and delivery to the coastal zone, in response to human management of the terrestrial watershed. Beside the initial pristine state, used as an idealized reference state (with N, P and Si delivered fluxes of about 45–110 kg N km− 2 yr− 1, 2–5 kg P km− 2 yr− 1, 510–1325 kg Si km− 2 yr− 1), four periods were distinguished. The first one is that of the traditional cottage economy which prevailed, with quite a constant total population, until the end of the 18th century. N, P and Si fluxes were about 235–750 kg N km− 2 yr− 1, 15–60 kg P km− 2 yr− 1 and 425–1280 kg Si km− 2 yr− 1, depending on hydrological conditions. The second period, from the beginning of the 19th century to about the 1950′s, corresponded to rapid increase in the total and urban population with a corresponding increase of point sources of N and P. From 1950 onwards, modern farming practices resulted in a dramatic increase in diffuse sources of nitrogen and to a lesser extent phosphorus: riverine N and P export reached 1320–2800 kg N km− 2 yr− 1, and 310–340 kg P km− 2 yr− 1: silica export remained fairly constant at around 410–1260 kg Si km− 2 yr− 1 depending on the hydrological conditions. In the 1990′s, the fourth period is represented by a stabilized population and improved wastewater treatment, when the export of phosphorus is reduced to values as low as 40–60 kg P km− 2 yr− 1, but without as effective a reduction of nitrogen export. This represents an unprecedented situation for the marine coastal system, i.e. a shift from nitrogen to phosphorus limitation, as nitrogen is still delivered far in excess of the amount of silica available for diatom blooms.

Dates and versions

insu-00386805 , version 1 (22-05-2009)



Gilles Billen, Josette Garnier, Julien Nemery, Mathieu Sebilo, Agata Sferratore, et al.. A long-term view of nutrient transfers through the Seine river continuum. Science of the Total Environment, 2007, 375 (1-3), pp.80 à 97. ⟨10.1016/j.scitotenv.2006.12.005⟩. ⟨insu-00386805⟩
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