Join us
Orange welcome sign that reads Royal Geographical Society with IBG.

Become a member and discover where geography can take you.

Join us

Research from Ulster University has changed the way that public sector agencies, advisory services and farmers identify diffuse phosphorus pollution pressures on agricultural land in Ireland.



Eutrophication of freshwater bodies caused by phosphorus (P) loss from agricultural land continues to be a major environmental problem in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Identification of specific P hotspots on farms and in river catchments has been a major challenge.



Geographers at Ulster University identified the key challenges in obtaining and combining Critical Source Areas (CSA) hotspot data across Ireland. A spatial risk assessment of hydrologically sensitive areas was developed using high-resolution digital elevation data. Areas prone to surface runoff were then combined with field-by-field soil P concentration data in a validated geospatial model.



In Northern Ireland, the research has been used by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs to provide innovative field-scale mapped instructions on soil P management for 1,091 individual farmers in large river catchments. Soil fertility and CSA maps were produced for 513 farmers and 7,700 fields and followed up with a further 578 farmers managing 9,600 fields.

In the Republic of Ireland, the research is being used by the EPA to assess and map soil P pollution in 190 priority catchments and across the Republic of Ireland as a whole (approximately 137,000 farms). It is also influencing how farmers are advised regarding mitigation approaches.


More information 

Institution: Ulster University 

Researchers: Professor Philip Jordan, Professor Paul Dunlop

Share this resource

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY NC 4.0), which permits use, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, provided the original work is cited and it is for non-commercial purposes. Please contact us for other uses.

How to cite

Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) (2023) Changing the approach of water management across Ireland through the uptake of field-scale diffuse pollution pressure mapping. Available at  Last accessed on: <date>