Stream Bank Erosion as a Source of Sediment and Phosphorus in Grazed Gastures of the Rathbun Lake Watershed in Southern Iowa, United States
Livestock grazing of riparian areas can have a major impact on stream banks and stream integrity if improperly managed. The goals of this study were to determine the sediment and phosphorus (P) losses from stream bank soils under varying cattle stocking rates and to identify additional factors that impact stream bank erosion in the southern Iowa Drift Plain. The research was conducted on 13 cooperating beef cow-calf farms within the Rathbun Lake Watershed in south central Iowa. Over three years, stream bank erosion rates were estimated by using an erosion pin method. Eroded stream bank lengths and area, soil bulk density, and total P (TP) content in stream bank soil were measured to calculate soil and TP losses via stream bank erosion. The length of severely eroded stream banks and soil compaction of the riparian areas of the pastures were positively related to stocking rates. There was no direct relationship between bank erosion and stocking rate. These results suggest that use of riparian areas as pasture can negatively impact the integrity of the major source areas and that the impact could be reduced through management of livestock stocking densities within these riparian areas.