Legacies of Agricultural Pollutants (LEAP):
Integrated Assessment of Biophysical and Socioeconomic Controls on Water Quality in Agroecosystems

Project Website

van cappellen 

Coordinator: Prof. Dr. Philippe Van Cappellen

Projects  Partner and Institution:
Jerker Jarsjö, Stockholm University
Søren Bøye Olsen, University of Copenhagen
Maria Cunha, University of Coimbra
Nandita Basu, University of Waterloo

Key words: agricultural pollutants, nutrient legacies, best management practices (BMPs), time-lags, watershed nutrient models, nitrogen, phosphorus.

Abstract: Widespread nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) fertilizer use threatens water quality and aquatic ecosystems. Agricultural best management practices (BMPs) have been implemented in an attempt to improve water quality, but time lags between BMP implementation and measurable water quality benefits are frequently observed. One reason is the slow release of N and P from legacy nutrient stores that accumulated in the landscape over decades of fertilizer application. At present, we continue to lack: (a) a comprehensive characterization of the nature, size and reactivity of agricultural N and P legacies, (b) integrated modelling tools to predict the timing and magnitude of water quality improvements achievable through BMPs, and (c) policy instruments that acknowledge time lags and balance trade-offs between short and long-term costs, benefits and risks. 

LEAP aims to gain a predictive understanding of the release of nutrients over time and how they move and transform within water systems and address the knowledge gaps. The project objectives are:

  • Identify key controls on the accumulation and mobilization of agricultural N and P legacies, and predict time lags between implementation of BMPs and reductions in nutrient loadings to ground and surface waters, as a function of climate, land cover, land use, and land management;
  • Assess outcomes of alternative management strategies by performing cost-benefit analyses within a hydro-economic modelling framework that explicitly represents nutrient legacies;
  • Develop a Bayesian Belief Network (BBN) framework to evaluate uncertainties in both biophysical and hydro-economic modelling of nutrient legacies, and assess their implications for nutrient risk management;
  • Create an agroecosystem typology – based on EU and Canadian exemplars– that links biophysical and socioeconomic drivers of non-point source pollution to water quality impacts; and
  • Inform adaptive agro-environmental water management practices that target mitigation of water quality impacts of N and P legacies by assessing trade-offs between short and long-term costs, benefits and risks.

Project structure:
LEAP is comprised of five interlinked Work Packages (WPs), each lead by a researcher from one of the partner institutions.
WP 1 will form the practical and analytical framework of LEAP. WP 2 will focus on biophysical modelling of N and P at the selected exemplar sites. WP 3 will link economics and agricultural practices in a hydro-economic framework. WP 4 will develop a framework to support policy and decision-making. WP 5 will integrate the results of WP 2 – 4 into an agroecosystem typology.

The organizational structure includes: the management committee (includes WP leads and consortium coordinator), the project office, and an external advisory committee.

project structure1

LEAP research will be focused on five exemplar sites: Boreal Shield Forest, Canada; Grand River Watershed, Canada; Norrström Catchment, Sweden; Limfjorden and Odense Catchments, Denmark; and Mondego River Basin, Portugal. Each WP has established tasks, deliverables (D), and milestones to ensure that project objectives are met. Methods and research areas for each WP are displayed in the accompanying figure.


Work Package 1: Framing, Coordination and Dissemination
D1.1: Working paper on analytical framework for LEAP
D1.2: International youth forum on agriculture and water
D1.3: Knowledge mobilization event – session at international conference
D1.4: Mid-term and final reports
Work Package 2: Biophysical Analysis of Nutrient Legacies
D2.1 Working papers (2) comparing nutrient input/output trajectories from the exemplars
D2.2 Maps showing N and P legacies for the exemplar sites
D2.3 Delivery of nutrient model results to WP3 and WP4
D2.4 Working papers (2) on watershed nutrient model incorporating legacies
Work Package 3: Hydro-economics of Agricultural Pollutant Legacies
D3.1 Working papers detailing the cost-effectiveness analysis in the exemplars
D3.2. Working paper with results from choice experiment
D3.3. Working papers (2) on hydro-economic decision-support and CBA
D3.4. Delivery of CEA and CBA results to WP4 – iterative process
Work Package 4: Uncertainties and Risk Management
D4.1. Working papers (2) on the general framework and integrating uncertainty in exemplars
D4.2 Uncertainty results delivered to Task 5.4
Work Package 5: Upscaling and Adaptation Portfolios
D5.1 Nutrient legacy system typology for exemplars & national/regional scales
D5.2 Working papers (4) on LEAP typology, scaling up and portfolios
D5.3 Policy briefs targeted to EU and national groups based on Task 5.4
D5.4 Roadmap that identifies most cost-effective nutrient reduction strategies.

References coordinator and  leaders of  each WP:
• WP 1 leader: Philippe Van Cappellen
• WP 2 leader: Jerker Jarsjö
• WP 3 leader: Søren Bøye Olsen
• WP 4 leader: Maria Cunha
• WP 5 leader: Nandita Basu

Contact Point for  Communication/Dissemination activities: Tatjana Milojevic (

Contact Point for Open Data/Open Access activities:Tatjana Milojevic (

Results of the project: Data and resources

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published on 2017/03/23 10:00:00 GMT+1 last modified 2019-07-31T14:03:21+01:00