A distributed modelling system for simulation of monthly runoff and nitrogen sources, loads and sinks for ungauged catchments in Denmark

Jørgen Windolf, Hans Thodsen, Lars Troldborg, Søren E. Larsen, Jens Bøgestrand, Niels B. Ovesen, Brian Kronvang

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52 Citations (Scopus)


We validated an existing physically based 3D MIKE SHE groundwater resource model (DK-model) at 175 Danish gauging stations covering different catchment sizes in order to calculate monthly water runoff in the 50% ungauged part of Denmark. Model performance was in most cases good (61% of gauging stations had a Nash-Sutcliffe (NS) coefficient >0.60) but nevertheless showed a large seasonal and georegion specific bias. Therefore, bias correction factors had to be developed before applying the DK-model simulations of runoff in the ungauged areas. Simulated monthly runoff from ungauged areas and the measured monthly runoff from 178 gauging stations were distributed to 2663 smaller Hydrological Units (ca. 15 km 2) and linked with a new empirical model for flow-weighted monthly total nitrogen (TN) concentrations (R 2 = 0.43; P < 0.0001) developed based on 20 years of observations (1990-2009) in 83 small catchments for calculation of monthly gross diffuse TN-loads from HU's. Nitrogen retention was calculated in streams, lakes and wetlands utilising both lake specific models and rate coefficients to calculate N retention in surface water bodies. The whole model complex was linked in the DK-QN concept for simulation of monthly TN losses from point sources and diffuse sources, TN retention and resulting loadings to Danish coastal waters. The DK-QN model was validated in 118 gauged catchments and the model simulations had for >25% of the observations of monthly discharge weighted TN concentrations a NS larger than 0.26. Catchment specific monthly TN-loadings were modelled with a higher performance as 50% of the catchments had a NS greater than 0.75. The model concept allows calculation of N retention in streams, lakes and wetlands and the average annual model calculated N retention amounted to 21% of the modelled gross riverine TN loadings. The average annual gross TN loading to surface freshwater in Denmark derived from diffuse sources amounted to 97000 tonnes N (91% of gross TN loadings) which is 54% of the total estimated N-leaching from the root zone on the Danish land area (212000 tonnes N) during the period 1990-2009.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2645-2658
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Environmental Monitoring
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2011

Programme Area

  • Programme Area 2: Water Resources


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