Assessing Surface Flowpath Interception by Vegetative Buffers Using ArcGIS Hydrologic Modeling and Geospatial Analysis for Rock Creek Watershed, Central Iowa

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Webber, David
Bansal, Manveen
Arora, Kapil
Gelder, Brian
Shrivastav, Manish
Judge, Casey
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Mickelson, Steven
Professor and Special Advisor for Student Information Systems
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Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology

The Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology seeks to teach the studies of ecology (organisms and their environment), evolutionary theory (the origin and interrelationships of organisms), and organismal biology (the structure, function, and biodiversity of organisms). In doing this, it offers several majors which are codirected with other departments, including biology, genetics, and environmental sciences.

The Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology was founded in 2003 as a merger of the Department of Botany, the Department of Microbiology, and the Department of Zoology and Genetics.

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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.

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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  • Department of Agricultural Engineering (1907–1990)

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Nonpoint-source (NPS) pollution is a major cause of surface water quality degradation due to the transport of chemicals, nutrients, and sediments into lakes and streams. Vegetative buffers comprise several effective landscape best management practices (BMPs) that include vegetative filter strips (VFS) and grassed waterways. However, some BMPs are less effective due to concentrated surface flow, improper cropland-to-VFS area ratios, and surface flowpaths that partially or completely bypass vegetative buffers. The overall objective of this study was to quantify the accuracy of simulated flowpaths relative to observed and global positioning system (GPS)-assisted ground-truthed surface flowpaths for improved placement of VFS and other vegetative buffers to effectively intercept surface runoff. This study was conducted on three research sites in Rock Creek watershed in central Iowa. Geographic information system (GIS) software was used for flowpath hydrologic modeling and geospatial map comparison analysis. Digital elevation model (DEM) datasets were used for flowpath simulation and included internet-available USGS 30 m × 30 m grid (typically used to design and site VFS buffers) and light detection and ranging (LiDAR) 5 m × 5 m grid DEMs. Results from this study indicate that the LiDAR 5 m × 5 m DEM generated significantly more accurate simulated flowpaths than the USGS 30 m × 30 m DEM. These results quantitatively underscore the efficacy of using high-resolution LiDAR DEM data to more accurately determine how well surface flowpaths are intercepted by VFS and other vegetative buffers. These results also demonstrate the benefits of coupling highresolution aerial imagery with quantitative geospatial map comparison data to improve visualization and comparison of field-scale and watershed-scale hydrologic and terrestrial attributes. Ultimately, the results and procedures from this study will be applied to the development of a novel cloud-based, user-interactive, virtual-reality decision support (DS) tool that can be used to remotely assess hydrologic landscape conditions, prescribe improvements to existing BMPs, and determine new sites for enhanced BMP placement and functionality within a high-resolution 3-D imagery environment.


This article is published as Webber, D. F., M. Bansal, S.K. Mickelson, M.J. Helmers, K. Arora, K., B.K. Gelder, and C.J. Judge. "Assessing surface flowpath interception by vegetative buffers using ArcGIS hydrologic modeling and geospatial analysis for Rock Creek watershed, central Iowa," Trans. ASABE 60, no. 1 (2018): 273-283. DOI: 10.13031/trans.12350. Posted with permission.

Mon Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2018