Variable spatial and temporal impacts of low-grade weirs on the agriculture landscape: evaluating the costs and benefits

Author(s): Poganski, B.; Kröger, R.; Pierce, S.

The use of inorganic fertilizers in agricultural production is widely recognized as a source of nitrate contributing to annual hypoxic zones in the Gulf of Mexico. Ecosystem degradation and impacts on freshwater and marine biota from nutrient contamination of surface waters have motivated research efforts to develop and implement innovative nutrient management practices. Such efforts have become a major priority of many landowners, natural resource conservationists, scientists, and government agencies from a local to national scale. The current experiment investigates how frequency and variable spatial arrangements of best management practices (BMPs) within drainage systems impact water quality leaving the agricultural landscape over time. Preliminary water quality results highlight temporal nutrient trends in agricultural effluent, where concentration spikes were observed during seasons that experience heavy rainfalls and when fertilizer application occurs. Results also showed phosphorus concentrations to be higher in run-off during stormflows rather than during baseflows, while nitrate concentrations in run-off were found to be similar regardless of flow regime. Integrating nutrient reduction data, spatial and temporal variables of best management practices, drainage acreage, and fertilizer inputs will help determine factors that affect nutrient reduction efficiencies and drive the adaptation of management strategies to further enhance pollution mitigation. Investigations of nutrient reduction data and environmental factors highlight the short-term benefits of management practices, which include water conservation, pollution reduction, and ecosystem services. Recognizing that decreasing the loss of water resources and nutrients through BMPs may have additional long-term environmental and monetary benefits to all stakeholders from local to regional scales.

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