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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Implementation of Riparian Buffer Systems for Landscape Management

Authors
item Lowrance, Robert
item Crow, Susan - UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA

Submitted to: CRC Press
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: January 5, 2002
Publication Date: April 3, 2002
Citation: Lowrance, R.R., Crow, S. 2002. Implementation of riparian buffer systems for landscape management. CRC Press. Book Chapter #145.

Interpretive Summary: Because of diffuse sources of pollution from agriculture nonpoint source pollution), buffers are particularly important in maintaining environmental quality in agricultural landscapes. Riparian (streamside) ecosystems are a high priority for installation as part of the USDA Conservation Buffer Initiative (CBI). The CBI is implemented through existing conservation programs such as the Continuous sign-up of the Conservation Reserve Program(CRP). Riparian buffers have multiple purposes in agricultural landscapes but are generally installed to help improve water quality, restore degraded streambanks, and enhance wildlife. Buffers should be applied as part of a farm management plan to help farmers manage their natural resources such as soil and water and purchased inputs such as fertilizer and pesticides. USDA programs for buffers provide technical assistance, cost share for practice establishment, and rental payments for certain lands that are eligible for the Conservation Reserve Program. Although the programs are similar among states and must conform to national standards, there are differences among states. These differences are due to both different levels of need for riparian buffers and differences in how the amounts of rental payments available to farmers for puting land into buffers are determined. Decision trees, based on minimum widths of riparian ecosystem buffers and best professional judgment, can be usedto help guide to restoration and manage- ment of buffers for various purposes in agricultural areas.

Technical Abstract: Buffers are key elements in all managed landscapes. Because pollutants leak from agricultural production systems, buffers have particular importance in maintaining environmental quality in agricultural landscapes. Riparian ecosystems are among the buffers that have been given high priority for installation as part of the USDA Conservation Buffer Initiative. Riparian buffers have multiple purposes in agricultural landscapes but may generally be installed to help improve chemical, physical, and biological water quality, stabilize streambanks, and enhance wildlife habitat. Although best applied as part of a suite of conservation and environmental quality techniques on the farm scale, it is not likely that surface water quality in agricultural landscapes will be restored without the use of riparian buffers. The restoration of riparian buffers is typically evaluated at a field scale whereas they clearly need to be managed at multiple scales to provide the entire suite of likely benefits. USDA programs for riparian buffers provide technical assistance, cost share for practice establishment, and rental payments for certain lands that are eligible for the Conser- vation Reserve Program. Although national in scope, the program's use of productivity as a basis for rental rate results in contrasts among states as to the amount of land actually put into buffers. Simple decision trees, based on minimum widths of riparian ecosystem buffers can be used to help guide teir restoration and management in agricultural landscapes.

Last Modified: 4/19/2014
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