Mitigation of diffuse phosphorus pollution during rewetting of fen peat soils: A trans-European case study

R. Meissner*, P. Leinweber, H. Rupp, M. Shenker, M. I. Litaor, S. Robinson, A. Schlichting, J. Koehn

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Intensive cultivation of fen peat soils (Eutric Histosols) for agricultural purposes, started in Europe about 250 years ago, resulting in decreased soil fertility, increased oxidation of peat and corresponding CO2- emissions to the atmosphere, nutrient transfer to aquatic ecosystems and losses in the total area of the former native wetlands. To prevent these negative environmental effects set-aside programs and rewetting measures were promoted in recent years. Literature results and practical experiences showed that large scale rewetting of intensively used agricultural Histosols may result in the mobilisation of phosphorus (P), its transport to adjacent surface waters and an accelerated eutrophication risk. The paper summarises results from an international European Community sponsored research project and demonstrates how results obtained at different scales and from different scientific disciplines were compiled to derive a strategy to carry out rewetting measures. A decision support system (DSS) for a hydrologically sensitive area in the Droemling catchment in north-eastern Germany was developed and is presented as a tool to regulate rewetting in order to control P release. It is demonstrated that additional laboratory experiments to identify essential processes of P release during rewetting and the site-specific management of the water table, the involvement of specific knowledge and experience of the stakeholders are necessary to develop an applicable DSS. The presented DSS is practically used to prevent freshwater resources from diffuse P pollution.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)111-126
Number of pages16
JournalWater, Air, and Soil Pollution
Issue number1-4
StatePublished - Feb 2008

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements The authors acknowledge the financial support of project PROWATER by the European Communities (EVK1-1999-00212). We thank the Magdeburg Water Authority for kindly providing the Ohre River water quality data.


  • Agricultural watershed
  • Assessment
  • Histosol
  • Land use change
  • Measurement
  • Phosphorus


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