Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, USA, have agreed to reduce nutrient loadings to Chesapeake Bay by 40% by the year 2000. This requires control of nonpoint sources of nutrients much of which comes from agriculture. Riparian forest buffer systems (RFBS) provide effective control of nonpoint source (NPS) pollution in some types of agricultural watersheds. Control of NPS pollution is dependent on the type of pollutant and the hydrologic connection between pollution sources, the RFBS, and the stream. Water quality improvements are most likely in areas of where most of the excess precipitation moves across, in, or near the root zone of the RFBS. In areas such as the Inner Coastal Plain and Piedmont watersheds with thin soils RFBS should retain 50%-90% of the total loading of nitrate in shallow groundwater sediment in surface runoff and total N in born surface runoff and groundwater. Retention of phosphorus is generally much less. In regions with deeper soils and/or greater regional groundwater recharge (such as parts of the Piedmont and the Valley and Ridge), RFBS water quality improvements are probably much less. The expected levels of pollutant control by RFBS are identified for each of nine physiographic provinces of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Issues related to of establishment sustainability, and management are also discussed.
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Water quality functions of riparian forest buffers in Chesapeake bay watersheds