MANAGEMENT AND CONSERVATION PRACTICES TO IMPROVE WATER QUALITY IN AGROECOSYSTEMS OF THE NORTHEASTERN US
Location: Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research
Project Number: 1902-13000-012-00
Start Date: Apr 06, 2012
End Date: Apr 05, 2017
The overall objective of our research is to sustain agriculture and water resources in the northeastern US. Our basic research provides fundamental information on processes (chemical, physical, hydrologic), linking agricultural management with water resources. Our applied research advances nutrient management practices and strategies that balance production and agroecological services, helping agriculture to adapt to emerging water resource issues and, ultimately, promoting resilient agroecosystems that can respond to long-term challenges occurring at scales beyond the farm gate. Specific objectives are:
(1) Describe and quantify processes controlling agriculturally related environmental contaminants (nutrients, trace metals, and sediments).
(2) Adapt and develop management practices and strategies that farmers can use to reduce the environmental impacts of agriculturally derived contaminants.
(3) Conduct watershed scale research to understand the long-term impacts of changing management and climate on water resources.
Research will span the four major physiographic provinces of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, relying upon core sites in the Atlantic Coastal Plain (Manokin watershed, MD), Appalachian Piedmont (Conewago watershed, PA), Appalachian Valley and Ridge (Mahantango Creek watershed, PA and Spring Creek watershed, PA), and Allegheny Plateau (Anderson Creek watershed, PA) (Figure 1). Research emphases will vary across these provinces, reflecting issues that are of current management or scientific relevance as well as constraints imposed by available resources (Figure 2). Our primary distinction is between the Atlantic Coastal Plain and upland physiographic regions, as hydrologic flow paths are dramatically different in these landscapes (subsurface flow is the dominant hydrologic pathway in the Atlantic Coastal Plain whereas overland and shallow lateral flows are the major pathways in the upland provinces). We have landowner contacts and research collaborators at all major (core) sites, and have a research infrastructure that enables routine measurement and chemical sampling of surface runoff, subsurface flow, and stream flow. When necessary, we move infrastructure from one location to another to provide a greater intensity of observations. We combine field observations with laboratory experiments in which greater control may be obtained over indirect variables. Our process-oriented research (Objective 1) involves observational and experimental studies, using parametric and nonparametric statistics to quantify temporal and spatial trends or to determine differences between management/land use, landscape units, and watershed components. Our applied research (Objectives 2 and 3) includes experimental studies, remote sensing and modeling. Experimentation involves a high degree of replication due to the inherent variability in processes impacting water quality. We have strong in-house statistical capability and, when necessary, consult with outside statisticians to ensure confidence in our findings.