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Phosphorus biogeochemistry in riparian buffer strips

Management to mitigate pollutant swapping

Buffer strips are useful for mitigating diffuse pollution. As riparian buffers perform their role in sediment trapping, P accumulates with no loss mechanism (as in wetland denitrification for N). Compiled data from buffer retention studies shows limited efficiencies for P trapping and negative budgets (that is, leaching) for dissolved P. So buffer soils can become a near stream source of bioavailable P.

Figure 1: Engineered buffer strip

Figure 1 (above) and 2 (below): Engineered buffer strip

Figure 2: Engineered buffer strip

We realised that vegetation management (for example, cut and removal) present one of few long term P sinks for buffers. In terms of making buffers pay for themselves and become more acceptable we can economise on this by using plant lines selected for greater P uptake targeted to the P forms we observe in buffer soils. We are now encouraging buffers for biomass for economic returns and as a means of P recycling.


  • Stutter, M.I., Langan, S.J. and Lumsdon, D.G. 2009. Environmental Science and Technology 43, 1858-1863.
  • Stutter, M.I., Chardon, W.J. and Kronvang, B. 2012. Journal of Environmental Quality 41, 297-303.


Areas of Interest

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The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.