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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: INTEGRATION OF CLIMATE VARIABILITY AND FORECASTS INTO RISK-BASED MANAGEMENT TOOLS FOR AGRICULTURE PRODUCTION AND RESOURCE CONSERVATION Title: The times they are changing: soil and water conservation in the 21st century

Authors
item Garbrecht, Jurgen
item Steiner, Jean
item Cox, Craig - SOIL & WATER CONSER.

Submitted to: Hydrological Processes
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: June 20, 2007
Publication Date: August 8, 2007
Citation: Garbrecht, J.D., Steiner, J.L., Cox, C. 2007. The times they are changing: soil and water conservation in the 21st century. Hydrological Processes. 21(19):2677-2679.

Interpretive Summary: Changing climate, increased bio-energy demands, and population growth are anticipated to have significant impacts on soil and water conservation in agricultural watersheds in the United States. Only by looking beyond the traditional approaches of the last century and embracing an expanded view of soil and water conservation can a productive, sustainable and environmentally sound landscape be maintained in the face of such changes. This brief commentary proposes that a watershed approach to soil and water conservation for the 21st century should also consider: (1) climate changes and resulting extreme erosion-causing events; (2) integrated treatment of all sediment and pollutant sources within the watershed; (3) targeting critical source areas for intensive conservation treatment; (4) hydrologic impacts of urban sprawl; (5) role and limitations of government conservation policies and programs; (6) need for an effective technical conservation support infrastructure at the implementation level; and (7) necessity of long term financial commitments, public participation, and market driven incentives to maintain implemented conservation measures. Such an approach should do a better job of taking into account a new balance of erosion processes, with greater risk of gully and stream erosion caused by higher runoff rates and volumes. Perhaps more importantly, however, the new approach calls for far more effective policies and programs. Only with both of these changes in place will conservationists in the 21st century be able to help maintain a sustainable and productive environment for all.

Technical Abstract: Changing climate, increased bio-energy demands, and population growth are anticipated to have significant impacts on soil and water conservation in agricultural watersheds in the United States. Only by looking beyond the traditional approaches of the last century and embracing an expanded view of soil and water conservation can a productive, sustainable and environmentally sound landscape be maintained in the face of such changes. This brief commentary proposes that a watershed approach to soil and water conservation for the 21st century should also consider: (1) climate changes and resulting extreme erosion-causing events; (2) integrated treatment of all sediment and pollutant sources within the watershed; (3) targeting critical source areas for intensive conservation treatment; (4) hydrologic impacts of urban sprawl; (5) role and limitations of government conservation policies and programs; (6) need for an effective technical conservation support infrastructure at the implementation level; and (7) necessity of long term financial commitments, public participation, and market driven incentives to maintain implemented conservation measures. Such an approach should do a better job of taking into account a new balance of erosion processes, with greater risk of gully and stream erosion caused by higher runoff rates and volumes. Perhaps more importantly, however, the new approach calls for far more effective policies and programs. Only with both of these changes in place will conservationists in the 21st century be able to help maintain a sustainable and productive environment for all.

Last Modified: 10/20/2014
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