Long term prospective of the Seine River system: Confronting climatic and direct anthropogenic changes - INRAE - Institut national de recherche pour l’agriculture, l’alimentation et l’environnement Access content directly
Journal Articles Science of the Total Environment Year : 2007

Long term prospective of the Seine River system: Confronting climatic and direct anthropogenic changes

Nicolas Beaudoin
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H. Kieken
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Sophie Lebonvallet
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Bruno Mary
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X. Poux
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Emmanuelle Sauboua
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Sylvain Théry
Pascal Viennot


To explore the evolution of a human impacted river, the Seine (France), over the 21st century, three driving factors were examined: climate, agriculture, and point source inputs of domestic and industrial origin. Three future scenarios were constructed, by modification of a baseline representative of recent conditions. A climate change scenario, based on simulations by a general circulation model driven by the SRES-A2 scenario of radiative forcing, accounts for an average warming of + 3.3 °C over the watershed and marked winter increase and summer decrease in precipitation. To illustrate a possible reduction in nitrate pollution from agricultural origin, a scenario of good agricultural practices was considered, introducing catch crops and a 20% decrease in nitrogen fertilisation. Future point source pollution was estimated following the assumptions embedded in scenario SRES-A2 regarding demographic, economic and technologic changes, leading to reductions of 30 to 75% compared to 2000, depending on the pollutants. Four models, addressing separate components of the river system (agronomical model, hydrogeological model, land surface model and water quality model), were used to analyse the relative impact of these scenarios on water quality, in light of their impact on hydrology and crop production. The first-order driving factor of water quality over the 21st century is the projected reduction of point source pollution, inducing a noticeable decrease in eutrophication and oxygen deficits downstream from Paris. The impact of climate change on these terms is driven by the warming of the water column. It enhances algal growth in spring and the loss factors responsible for phytoplankton mortality in late summer (grazers and viruses). In contrast, increased seasonal contrasts in river discharge have a negligible impact on river water quality, as do the changes in riverine nitrate concentration, which never gets limiting. The latter changes have a similar magnitude under the three scenarios. Under climate change, riverine and groundwater nitrate concentrations increase and crop production is advantaged with reduced growing cycles and increased yields. In contrast, nitrate concentrations decrease under the good agricultural practices scenario, with a limited decrease in crop production. When these two scenarios are combined, the changes in nitrate concentrations balance each other and crop yields increase. The results of this numerical exercise indicate that the potential changes to the Seine River system during the 21st century will not lead to severely degraded water quality.


Global Changes

Dates and versions

hal-00578551 , version 1 (21-03-2011)



Agnès Ducharne, Charles Baubion, Nicolas Beaudoin, Marc Benoît, Gilles Billen, et al.. Long term prospective of the Seine River system: Confronting climatic and direct anthropogenic changes. Science of the Total Environment, 2007, 375 (1-3), pp.292-311. ⟨10.1016/j.scitotenv.2006.12.011⟩. ⟨hal-00578551⟩
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