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United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

European Regional Centre for Ecohydrology Under the auspices of UNESCO

Ecotones for reduction of diffuse pollutions

LIFE08 ENV/PL/000519
The agricultural land in Europe covers up to 70% of the landscape. In Poland over 60% of phosphorus and almost 70% of the nitrogen load to the Baltic Sea originate from diffuse (nonpoint) source pollution (Fig.1). That is why reduction of nutrient load from a catchment, which stimulates eutrophication and toxic algal bloom appearance in reservoirs, lakes and costal zones, is one of the key challenges with regard to implementation of the Water Framework Directive. The creation of land-water ecotones has been proved to be an effective tool for reduction of the impact on freshwater ecosystem caused by nutrients from the landscapes. However, very often due to limited space in shoreline zone, ecotones are not effective sufficiently. That is why the goal of the project LIFE+ EKOROB Ecotones for Reduction of Diffuse Pollutions is an enhancement of ecotones zone to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus fluxes to reservoirs and the Baltic Sea towards implementation of the Water Framework Directive, achieving good ecological status, and reversing eutrophication of inland water and coastal zone. The innovative aspects of the EKOROB project are:
1 For agricultural land where high nitrogen input to freshwater appears, a plant buffering zone has

Fig.1. Proportion of sources contributing to nitrogen (a) and phosphorus (b) inputs into the Baltic Sea (HELCOM 2004)
natural background diffuse sources point sources

natural background diffuse sources point sources

been combined with denitrification walls (Fig.2)

2 For rural and recreational areas where high phosphorus load has been transported to aquatic

ecosystem, a plant buffering zone has been combined with biogeochemical barriers (Fig.3) In both cases, the recreational function of any area has been enhanced by construction of special facilities for bathing, boating and angling. Preliminary results indicate that enhance ecotones may double the efficiency of nutrient reduction and reduce the shoreline space necessary for groundwater purification twice.

Toxic cyanobacterial bloom in Sulejow Reservoir as consequence of eutrophication (photo. M.Tarczyska)

DEVELOPMENT OF SOLUTIONS Fig.2. Reduction of nitrogen pollution from diffuse source by enhancement of plant buffering zones with denitrification walls
400 350 300 250 200 150 100 50 0 B1 B2 B3 B4 B5
3.09.2010 30.09.2010 3.11.2010 9.12.2010


Nitrogen lo ad from agricul tural land

NO3 concentration in groundwater [mg/l]

Sulejow Reservoir (

Critical value marking polluted water acc. to Nitrates Directive

Recreational facilities (jetty) Plants Denitrification walls

Fig.3. Reduction of phosphorus pollution from diffuse source by enhancement of plant buffering zones with biogeochemical barriers
Sulejow Reservoir

Phospho ru from recr s load eational area

7 6 5 4 3 2 1 0
Z1 Z2 Z3 Z4 Z5

PO4 concentration in groundwater [mg/l]

3.09.2010 30.09.2010 3.11.2010 9.12.2010 19.01.2011

Recreational facilities (jetty) Plants

Critical value for appearance of cyanobacterial bloom

Biogeochemical barriers


Regional Water Management Authority in Warsaw 13B, Zarzecze Street 03-194 Warsaw, Poland Tel: +48 22 587 03 18 Fax: +48 22 587 03 11 Email:
photo of Pilica River by M.Wysocki

International Institute Polish Academy of Sciences European Regional Centre for Ecohydrology under the auspices of UNESCO 3, Tylna Street 90-364 Lodz, Poland Tel: +48 42 681 70 07 Fax: +48 42 681 30 69 Email: