Intensive agriculture causes nutrient leaching and accelerates erosion processes, which threatens the good quality status of surface waters, as proposed by the European Union (EU) Water Framework Directive. The purpose of this study was to define the impact of two alternative agricultural land-use change scenarios defined in a Municipal Spatial Plan on surface water quality by using the Agricultural Policy/Environmental eXtender (APEX) model. As experimental area, we chose a small Kožbanjšček stream catchment (1464 ha) situated in the Goriška Brda region in Slovenia. The area, due to favorable conditions for vineyards, is facing increasing deforestation. The change of 66.3 ha of forests to vineyards would increase the sediment, nitrate, and phosphorus loads in the stream by 24.8%, 17.1%, and 10.7%, respectively. With the implementation of vegetative buffer strips as a mitigation measure of the current situation, we could reduce the sediment, nitrate, and phosphorus loads by 17.9%, 11.1%, and 3.1%, respectively, while a combination of the two land-use change scenarios would result in a slight increase of the above-mentioned loads, corresponding to 0.61%, 2.1%, and 6.6%, respectively, compared to the baseline situation. The results confirm that, as we can increase pollution levels with deforestation, we can also reduce water pollution by choosing proper types of land management measures.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited