Methods to prioritize placement of riparian buffers for improved water quality

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2008-01-01
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Tomer, Mark
Dosskey, Michael
Burkart, Michael
James, David
Eisenhauer, Dean
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Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering

Since 1905, the Department of Agricultural Engineering, now the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering (ABE), has been a leader in providing engineering solutions to agricultural problems in the United States and the world. The department’s original mission was to mechanize agriculture. That mission has evolved to encompass a global view of the entire food production system–the wise management of natural resources in the production, processing, storage, handling, and use of food fiber and other biological products.

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In 1905 Agricultural Engineering was recognized as a subdivision of the Department of Agronomy, and in 1907 it was recognized as a unique department. It was renamed the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering in 1990. The department merged with the Department of Industrial Education and Technology in 2004.

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1905–present

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  • Department of Agricultural Engineering (1907–1990)

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Abstract

Agroforestry buffers in riparian zones can improve stream water quality, provided they intercept and remove contaminants from surface runoff and/or shallow groundwater. Soils, topography, surficial geology, and hydrology determine the capability of forest buffers to intercept and treat these flows. This paper describes two landscape analysis techniques for identifying and mapping locations where agroforestry buffers can effectively improve water quality. One technique employs soil survey information to rank soil map units for how effectively a buffer, when sited on them, would trap sediment from adjacent cropped fields. Results allow soil map units to be compared for relative effectiveness of buffers for improving water quality and, thereby, to prioritize locations for buffer establishment. A second technique uses topographic and streamflow information to help identify locations where buffers are most likely to intercept water moving towards streams. For example, the topographic wetness index, an indicator of potential soil saturation on given terrain, identifies where buffers can readily intercept surface runoff and/or shallow groundwater flows. Maps based on this index can be useful for site-specific buffer placement at farm and small-watershed scales. A case study utilizing this technique shows that riparian forests likely have the greatest potential to improve water quality along first-order streams, rather than larger streams. The two methods are complementary and could be combined, pending the outcome of future research. Both approaches also use data that are publicly available in the US. The information can guide projects and programs at scales ranging from farm-scale planning to regional policy implementation.

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This article is from Agroforestry Systems 75, no. 1 (2009): 17–25, doi:10.1007/s10457-008-9134-5.

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