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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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Strickland, Timothy C
Research Leader
(229) 386-3664
2316 Rainwater Road
P.O. Box 748
Tifton GA 31793

MISSION


The mission of the Southeast Watershed Research Laboratory (SEWRL) is to develop the scientific understanding and associated technologies of watershed systems essential to maintaining/enhancing the environmental and natural resource base upon which a viable, sustainable, and productive agricultural economy depends. The focus of the Laboratory is primarily on the Coastal Plain region of the southeastern U.S., a region with low-gradient drainage systems and extensive nearstream riparian areas. Specific objectives are to develop: (a) conceptual understanding of responses in natural resource and environmental systems based on physical, chemical, and biological processes; (b) methodologies to direct optimal use of soil and water resources in the production of quality food and fiberwhile maintaining short-and-long term productivity requirements, ecosystem stability, and environmental quality; and (c) models and information based systems to guide responsible management decisions for action and regulatory agencies at field, farm, and watershed scales.

 

HISTORY AND PROGRAM


Senate Document 59 stated that special attention should be given to hydrologic research on agricultural watersheds. The Document recommended the establishment of watershed centers at Boise, ID; Tucson, AZ; Chickasha, OK; Columbia, MO; State College, PA; and Athens, GA. The Southeast Watershed Center was authorized and organized in 1966 and was guided by the Document's recognition that there was an urgent need for information on rainfall-runoff relationship for the various soils and land uses in the Coastal Plain of the southeast.

Relevant elements of watershed science for the Laboratory are to conduct research and develop technology required for protecting, enhancing, and sustaining natural resources to insure supplies of food, fiber, and water with emphasis on farms, watersheds, and agroecosystems in the Southeastern U.S. Over the years the Laboratory has adjusted it programs to meet political, societal and technological pressures.

In 1970, research concerned with levels of nutrients, iron, chloride, and selected pesticides in surface runoff and streamflow from coastal plain areas was initiated. A laboratory with pesticide analytic capabilities was established in 1976. With this capacity research involving inorganic chemistry and sediment transport was initiated. In 1978, studies began on nutrient cycling in agricultural watershed ecosystems.

In 1980, the Laboratory assumed the responsibility of research and technology transfer activities associated with the CREAMS model (Chemical, Runoff, Erosion from Agricultural Management Systems). In response to concerns about pesticides in groundwater the GLEAMS model (Groundwater Loading Effects of Agricultural Management Systems) was developed in 1986.

With the increased concern in the mid to late 1980's regarding the potential for pollution of groundwater by agricultural use of nutrients and pesticides, the Laboratory entered into a joint project with USGS, USEPA, and University of Georgia. The project generated a major interagency data base for studying the transport of nutrient and pesticides to groundwater.

Recognizing the importance of riparian zone vegetation and wetlands for maintaining streamflow water quality, research in this area has been expanded. The effectiveness of riparian vegetation in filtering and processing upland nonpoint source agrochemicals is being studied. The fate of pollutants in dairy and swine waste through riparian systems is included. A model (REMM-Riparian Ecosystem Management Model) is under development and testing that provides the capability for simulating physical and biological processes in riparian areas.

At present the Laboratory's primary areas of research include:

(a) Hydrologic processes as related to or affected by climate, soils, geology, watershed structure, and management. Development of integrating concepts with representation in models or information based systems to guide responsible management decisions at the field, farm, and watershed scales.

(b) Fate and transport of agrochemicals, nitrogen, phosphorus, and other environmentally significant water and sediment transported substances that are used in or have their mass and distribution affected by agriculture. Development of predictive technology and the supporting science to provide environmentally sound, sustainable production systems.

(c) Detachment, entrainment, and transport of sediments and associated chemicals as affected by soils, geology, climates, and management. Development of effective soil erosion control to sustain the productive capacity of soil and to prevent adverse downstream impacts from sedimentation in waterways, streams, ponds, buffers and wetlands within agricultural watersheds or agroecosystems.

(d) Physical and biological structure and function of watershed ecosystems. Effects of watershed components (i.e., soils, stream segments, wetlands, upland field, etc.) on hydrology, sediment and chemical transport, and systems sustainability. Understanding of agricultural impacts (positive or negative) on biodiversity of wetlands; role of riparian and depressional wetlands in assimilating/attenuating potential pollutants; and role of riparian and depressional wetlands in hydrologic cycles (i.e., water budgets, storage groundwater recharge, etc.).

(e) As an Index Site for the National Environmental Monitoring Initiative (http://www.epa.gov/cludygxb/Pubs/framewrk.pdf), conduct spatial and temporal analyses to understand the interactions between local, short-term processes and the behaviors of large watersheds over the long-term.  SEWRL research will develop linkages between research sites and regional/national survey/monitoring programs in order to better characterize cause and effect relationships between land management and environmental quality in Coastal Plain systems.

(f) Development, evaluation, and integration of models and data bases at various scales from process level to watersheds, to facilitate research and transfer of technology to customers.


Last Modified: 7/21/2010
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