Particulate PhozzyLogic Index for policy makers-an index for a more accurate and transparent identification of critical source areas

J Environ Manage. 2022 Apr 1;307:114514. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2022.114514. Epub 2022 Jan 24.


The identification of critical source areas (CSAs) is a key element in a cost-effective mitigation of diffuse emissions of phosphorus from agricultural soils into surface waters. One of the challenges related to CSAs is how to couple complex, data-intensive fate and transport models with easy-to-use information on field level for management purposes at the scale of large watersheds. To fill such a gap and create a bridge between the two tasks, this study puts forward the new Particulate PhozzyLogic Index (PPLI) based on the innovative combination of the results of a complex watershed model (in this case the PhosFate model) with fuzzy logic. Its main feature is the ability to transform the results of diverse scenarios or even models into a final map showing a catchment-wide ranking of the possibility of high PP emissions reaching surface waters for all agricultural fields. Further, this study enhances the PhosFate model with a new algorithm for the allocation of particulate phosphorus (PP) loads entering surface waters to their sources of origin. This is a basic requirement for the identification of critical PP source areas and in consequence for a cost-effective implementation of mitigation measures. By means of a sensitivity analysis, this study investigates the impacts of storm drains, discharge frequencies and flow directions on the designation of CSAs with the help of present-day scenarios for a case study catchment with an area of several hundred square kilometres. The upfront model calibration exhibits a Nash-Sutcliffe efficiency (NSE) of about 0.95 and a modified Nash-Sutcliffe efficiency (mNSE) of around 0.83. A core result of the sensitivity analysis is that the scenarios at least partially disagree on the identified CSAs and suggest that especially open furrows at field borders have the potential to lead to deviating outcomes. All scenario results nevertheless support the 80:20 rule, which states that about 80% of the phosphorus inputs into the surface waters of a catchment originate from only about 20% of its area.

Keywords: Fuzzy logic; PhosFate model; Sediment transport; Spatial modeling; Water pollution; Watershed management.

MeSH terms

  • Administrative Personnel
  • Agriculture
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Humans
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Phosphorus / analysis
  • Soil
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical* / analysis


  • Soil
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Phosphorus