• Article

Land cover as a framework for assessing risk of water pollution

A survey of numerous field studies shows that nitrogen and phosphorous export coefficients are significantly different across forest, agriculture, and urban land-cover types. We used simulations to estimate the land-cover composition at which there was a significant risk of nutrient loads representative of watersheds without forest cover. The results suggest that at between 20 percent and 30 percent nonforest cover, there is a 10 percent or greater chance of N or P nutrient loads being equivalent to the median values of predominantly agricultural or urban watersheds. The methods apply to environmental management for assessing the risk to increased nonpoint nutrient pollution. Interpretation of the risk measures are discussed relative to their application for a single watershed and across a region comprised of several watersheds


Wickham, J. D., Riitters, K. H., O'Neill, R. V., Reckhow, K., Wade, T. G., & Jones, K. B. (2000). Land cover as a framework for assessing risk of water pollution. Journal of the American Water Resources Association, 36(6), 1417-1422.