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Testing a two-scale focused conservation strategy for reducing phosphorus and sediment loads from agricultural watersheds

Journal of Soil and Water Conservation

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https://doi.org/10.2489/jswc.73.3.298

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Abstract

This study tested a focused strategy for reducing phosphorus (P) and sediment loads in agricultural streams. The strategy involved selecting small watersheds identified as likely to respond relatively quickly, and then focusing conservation practices on high-contributing fields within those watersheds. Two 5,000 ha (12,360 ac) watersheds in the Driftless Area of south central Wisconsin, previously ranked in the top 6% of similarly sized Wisconsin watersheds for expected responsiveness to conservation efforts to reduce high P and sediment loads, were chosen for the study. The stream outlets from both watersheds were monitored from October of 2006 through September of 2016 for streamflow and concentrations of sediment, total P, and, beginning in October of 2009, total dissolved P. Fields and pastures having the highest potential P delivery to the streams in each watershed were identified using the Wisconsin P Index (Good et al. 2012). After three years of baseline monitoring (2006 to 2009), farmers implemented both field- and farm-based conservation practices in one watershed (treatment) as a means to reduce sediment and P inputs to the stream from the highest contributing areas, whereas there were no out-of-the-ordinary conservation efforts in the second watershed (control). Implementation occurred primarily in 2011 and 2012. In the four years following implementation of conservation practices (2013 through 2016), there was a statistically significant reduction in storm-event suspended sediment loads in the treatment watershed compared to the control watershed when the ground was not frozen (p = 0.047). While there was an apparent reduction in year-round suspended sediment event loads, it was not statistically significant at the 95% confidence level (p = 0.15). Total P loads were significantly reduced for runoff events (p < 0.01) with a median reduction of 50%. Total P and total dissolved P concentrations for low-flow conditions were also significantly reduced (p < 0.01) compared to the control watershed. This study demonstrated that a strategy that first identifies watersheds likely to respond to conservation efforts and then focuses implementation on relatively high-contributing fields within those watersheds can be successful in reducing stream P concentrations and loads.

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Article
Publication Subtype:
Journal Article
Title:
Testing a two-scale focused conservation strategy for reducing phosphorus and sediment loads from agricultural watersheds
Series title:
Journal of Soil and Water Conservation
DOI:
10.2489/jswc.73.3.298
Volume:
73
Issue:
2
Year Published:
2018
Language:
English
Publisher:
Soil and Water Conservation Society
Contributing office(s):
Wisconsin Water Science Center
Description:
12 p.
First page:
298
Last page:
309
Country:
United States
State:
Wisconsin