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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: ENHANCING ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY AND ECOSYSTEM SERVICES IN SOUTHEASTERN U.S. COASTAL PLAIN AGRICULTURAL WATERSHEDS

Location: Southeast Watershed Research

Title: Review of nitrogen fate models applicable to forest landscapes in the Southern U.S.

Authors
item Amatya, D -
item Rossi, Colleen
item Saleh, A -
item Dai, Z -
item Youssef, M -
item Williams, Randall
item Bosch, David
item Chescheir, G -
item Sun, G -
item Skaggs, R -
item Trettin, C -
item Vance, E -
item Nettles, J -
item Tian, S -

Submitted to: Transactions of the ASABE
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: September 16, 2013
Publication Date: December 2, 2013
Citation: Amatya, D.M., Rossi, C.G., Saleh, A., Dai, Z., Youssef, M.A., Williams, R.G., Bosch, D.D., Chescheir, G.M., Sun, G., Skaggs, R.W., Trettin, C.C., Vance, E.D., Nettles, J.E., Tian, S. 2013. Review of nitrogen fate models applicable to forest landscapes in the Southern U.S.. Transactions of the ASABE. 56(5): 1731-1757.

Interpretive Summary: Widespread use of fertilizer in pine forests of the southeastern U.S. is a primary reason for substantial increases in their productivity in recent decades. These forest lands provide important ecosystem services. However, questions have been raised about the potential effects of forest fertilizers on hydrology and water quality in downstream watersheds. An understanding of Nitrogen fate and transport is needed to further develop management prescriptions that increase fertilizer use efficiency and reduce environmental impacts. Physically based watershed simulation models are a common tool used for these purposes. Five commonly used models, APEX, MIKESHE-DNDC, DRAINMOD-FOREST, REMM, and SWAT, were reviewed for their ability to simulate these forest processes. While each model has strengths for specific applications, none is independently adequate to address the fate of N fertilizers applied to forest stands at both small and large scales. Our assessment reinforces the well-established notion that care must be taken when selecting a model for an intended application. Efforts are underway to extend their capabilities and address their various limitations.

Technical Abstract: Assessing the environmental impacts of fertilizer nitrogen (N) used to increase productivity in managed forests is complex due to a wide range of abiotic and biotic factors affecting its forms and movement. We review the applicability of five commonly used eco-hydrologic models (APEX, MIKESHE-DNDC, DRAINMOD-FOREST, REMM, and SWAT) in assessing N fate and transport in southern forest landscapes (<50 km2) because of their comprehensiveness and multi-scale predictions. The field-scale models DRAINMOD-FOREST and REMM contain process-level components characterizing hydrology, forest growth and N dynamics. APEX can describe N fate processes, forest growth, and plant competition at the landscape and small watershed scales. The SWAT model is best suited to hydrologic simulations at watershed scale > 50 km2 although N routing below the subbasin level does not yet exist. Similarly, the distributed MIKESHE-DNDC model has been used to assess N cycles across different spatial scales, on both uplands and lowlands, but was not intended to model lateral N transport. However, MIKESHE alone is capable of describing the hydrology and N transport. The strengths of each of the models reflect their original design and scope intent. Based on this review, none of the five models that we considered is independently adequate to address the fate of N fertilizers applied to forest stands at both small and large scales. While efforts are underway to extend their capabilities and address their various limitations, the models must be validated using experimental data before using their outputs, together with uncertainty analysis, for developing fertilization guidelines.

Last Modified: 7/25/2014
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