Hybrid modeling approach for the northern Adriatic watershed management

Sci Total Environ. 2018 Sep 1;635:353-363. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.04.094. Epub 2018 Apr 24.


Northern Adriatic (NA) is one of the most productive parts of the Mediterranean Sea due to vast nutrient discharges from the contributing watershed. To understand better the excess of nutrients as stressors to the state of the marine ecosystem, a hybrid modeling approach following the DPSIR framework and terminology was developed, linking: 1) the AVGWLF model for modeling the pressures, i.e. nutrients originating from the watershed caused by two major drivers (urbanization and agriculture), 2) the ML tool MTSMOTI for inducing a model tree connecting the pressures with the marine ecosystem state, and 3) the water quality index, TRIX, equation to evaluate the trophic state of the marine ecosystem. Data used for the modeling purpose comprised GIS layers (i.e., digital terrain model, land use/cover data, soil map, locations of hydro-meteorological stations and WWTPs), time series data (i.e., hydro-meteorological data and nutrient concentrations), and statistical data (i.e., number of inhabitants, connections to wastewater treatment, livestock statistics, etc.) as well as physical, chemical and biological parameters, measured at six marine water monitoring stations, located between the Po River delta (Italy) and the city of Rovinj (west Istrian coast, Croatia). Using the model, seven watershed management scenarios related to wastewater treatment and agricultural activities were evaluated for their influence on the state of the NA marine ecosystem. According to the results, the gradual implementation of the UWWTD in the last 10years contributed significantly to the preservation and improvement of the NA marine ecosystem state. However, despite the full implementation of the UWWTD, the state of the NA marine ecosystem could deteriorate in case of increased nutrient loads from agriculture. Since the UWWTD is already close to its full implementation, NA watershed management should focus on controlling agricultural activities in order to maintain 'high' state of the NA marine ecosystem.

Keywords: AVGWLF; MTSMOTI; Northern Adriatic; TRIX; UWWTD; Watershed management.

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture
  • Cities
  • Conservation of Natural Resources / methods*
  • Croatia
  • Ecosystem
  • Environmental Monitoring*
  • Geographic Information Systems
  • Italy
  • Mediterranean Sea
  • Models, Statistical*
  • Rivers
  • Soil
  • Trees
  • Urbanization


  • Soil