Using a Multi-Institutional Ensemble of Watershed Models to Assess Agricultural Conservation Effectiveness in a Future Climate

Haley Kujawa, Margaret Kalcic, Jay Martin, Anna Apostel, Jeffrey Kast, Asmita Murumkar, Grey Evenson, Noel Aloysius, Richard Becker, Chelsie Boles, Remegio Confesor, Awoke Dagnew, Tian Guo, Rebecca Logsdon Muenich, Todd Redder, Yu Chen Wang, Donald Scavia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


This study investigates the combined impacts of climate change and agricultural conservation on the magnitude and uncertainty of nutrient loadings in the Maumee River Watershed, the second-largest watershed of the Laurentian Great Lakes. Two scenarios — baseline agricultural management and increased agricultural conservation — were assessed using an ensemble of five Soil and Water Assessment Tools driven by six climate models. The increased conservation scenario included raising conservation adoption rates from a baseline of existing conservation practices to feasible rates in the near future based on farmer surveys. This increased adoption of winter cover crops on 6%–10% to 60% of cultivated cropland; subsurface placement of phosphorus fertilizers on 35%–60% to 68% of cultivated cropland; and buffer strips intercepting runoff from 29%–34% to 50% of cultivated cropland. Increased conservation resulted in statistically significant (p ≤ 0.05) reductions in annual loads of total phosphorus (41%), dissolved reactive phosphorus (18%), and total nitrogen (14%) under the highest emission climate scenario (RCP 8.5). While nutrient loads decreased with increased conservation relative to baseline management for all watershed models, different conclusions on the true effectiveness of conservation under climate change may be drawn if only one watershed model was used.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1326-1340
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of the American Water Resources Association
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • Soil and Water Assessment Tool
  • climate change
  • hydrology
  • nutrients
  • scenario analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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