Phosphorus load to surface water from bank erosion in a Danish lowland river basin

J Environ Qual. 2012 Mar-Apr;41(2):304-13. doi: 10.2134/jeq2010.0434.


Phosphorus loss from bank erosion was studied in the catchment of River Odense, a lowland Danish river basin, with the aim of testing the hypothesis of whether stream banks act as major diffuse phosphorus (P) sources at catchment scale. Furthermore, the study aimed at analyzing the impact of different factors influencing bank erosion and P loss such as stream order, anthropogenic disturbances, width of uncultivated buffer strips, and the vegetation of buffer strips. A random stratified procedure in geographical information system (GIS) was used to select two replicate stream reaches covering different stream orders, channelized vs. naturally meandering channels, width of uncultivated buffer strips (≤ 2 m and ≥ 10 m), and buffer strips with different vegetation types. Thirty-six 100-m stream reaches with 180 bank plots and a total of 3000 erosion pins were established in autumn 2006, and readings were conducted during a 3-yr period (2006-2009). The results show that neither stream size nor stream disturbance measured as channelization of channel or the width of uncultivated buffer strip had any significant ( < 0.05) influence on bank erosion and P losses during each of the 3 yr studied. In buffer strips with natural trees bank erosion was significantly ( < 0.05) lower than in buffer strips dominated by grass and herbs. Gross and net P input from bank erosion amounted to 13.8 to 16.5 and 2.4 to 6.3 t P, respectively, in the River Odense catchment during the three study years. The net P input from bank erosion equaled 17 to 29% of the annual total P export and 21 to 62% of the annual export of P from diffuse sources from the River Odense catchment. Most of the exported total P was found to be bioavailable (71.7%) based on a P speciation of monthly suspended sediment samples collected at the outlet of the river basin. The results found in this study have a great importance for managers working with P mitigation and modeling at catchment scale.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Denmark
  • Phosphorus / analysis*
  • Plants
  • Rivers / chemistry*
  • Time Factors
  • Water / chemistry*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis*


  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Water
  • Phosphorus