Estimating farm to catchment nutrient fluxes using dynamic simulation modelling – Can agri-environmental BMPs really do the job?

Document Type


Publication Date


Journal Title

Journal of Environmental Management


Phosphorus, dynamic modelling, STELLA, basin management, best management practices


A dynamic model of Phosphorus (P) movement through the Peel-Harvey catchment in South Western Australia was developed using system dynamics modelling software. The model was developed to illustrate watershed P flux and to predict future P loss rates under a range of management scenarios. Model input parameters were sourced from extensive surveys of local agricultural practices and regional soil testing data. Model P-routing routines were developed from the known interactions between the various watershed P compartments and fluxes between the various P stores. Phosphorus-retention characteristics of a variety of management practices were determined from local field trials where available and published values where not. The model simulated a 200 year time frame to reflect 100 years to the present day since initial land development, and forecast 100 years into the future. Although the catchment has an annual P-loss target of 70 tonnes per annum (tpa), the measured (and modelled) present-day loss is double this amount (140 tpa) and this is projected to rise to 1300 tpa if current land management practices continue. Broad implementation of neither “biological” BMPs such as perennial pastures and managed riparian zones, or of “chemical” BMPs such as reduced water solubility fertilisers and P-retentive soil amendments, produces reductions in P-loss from present-day levels. Even if broad-scale implementation of the large suite of BMPs tested in this research occurs, catchment P-losses are likely to increase from the present level of 140 tpa to approximately 200 tpa over the next 100 years. This has significant implications for both future land use and subsequent water quality in the catchment as well as questioning the wisdom and perceptions of efficacy of past and future BMP implementation strategies.