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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

2010 Annual Report

1a.Objectives (from AD-416)
Develop and validate methods to identify critical source areas of soil and nutrient loss in agricultural catchments of the Chesapeake Bay drainage basin using remote sensing techniques, particularly LiDAR-developed topographic maps. A. Develop technology for detection of runoff and erosion prone critical source areas in steeply sloped landscapes of the Chesapeake Bay drainage area. B. Develop technology for detection of runoff and nutrient loss critical source areas in nearly-level landscapes of the Chesapeake Bay drainage area.

1b.Approach (from AD-416)
This collaborative research will involve USDA-ARS and Canaan Valley Institute (CVI) scientists, in the context of ongoing research initiatives, particularly the Conservation Effects Assessment Project. Research will be conducted at sties representative of landscapes and agricultural practices within the Chesapeake Bay drainage basin, including the Mid-Atlantic Highlands of Appalachia, Allegheny Plateau, Valley and Ridge, and Atlantic Coastal Plain. Research in steeply sloping landscapes will center on identification of areas of high frequency runoff generation and erosion and on improving site assessment index application using high resolution elevation models. Research in nearly level landscapes will focus on characterization of overland flow and subsurface recharge areas, drainage ditch networks and critical control points favorable to different management practices. Testing of remote sensing applications will take advantage of ongoing USDA-ARS watershed studies (Choptank, Manokin, Mahantango, Town Brook) to assess the potential to remotely identify critical source areas of nutrient loss. Research in the Choptank watershed will involve direct collaboration with scientists at the Hydrology and Remote Sensing Laboratory in Beltsville, MD. Existing soil and water quality monitoring data from these established experimental watersheds, as well as direct sampling and new experimentation, will be used to support testing. CVI scientist will acquire and process remotely sensed data (e.g., LiDAR and hyperspectral). With these data, USDA-ARS and CVI will collaboratively develop of novel inference techniques to identify areas of flow favorable to nutrient transport. Critical flow areas will be used to target areas where investment in additional conservation practices can be expected to achieve maximum water quality benefit and to evaluate the effectiveness of existing conservation practices. USDA-ARS and CVI will evaluate the potential for widespread application of newly identified inference techniques and participate in the development of strategies for their use in watershed management.

3.Progress Report

A no-cost extension was executed to extend this agreement until August 31, 2011. The remaining project funds are being redirected to conduct collaborative research on stream restoration and sedimentation issues in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Both of these issues were identified as key research priorities in the initial cooperative agreement that was established in 2007.

In January 2010, a team of researchers from CVI, USDA-ARS, West Virginia University, and Virginia Tech convened in Cacapon, West Virginia to outline a project that evaluates the effectiveness of stream restoration on reducing sediment erosion in agricultural watersheds. The project will combine information from environmental tracers (e.g., 137Cs, rare earth elements, etc.), remote sensing, and basic hydrometric and water quality data to quantify suspended sediment contributions from landscape and streambank sources before and after the installation of different stream restoration practices.

The research team also met several times during the spring of 2010 to identify potential research sites and to develop a monitoring strategy. The Cacapon River watershed, an agricultural watershed located in West Virginia, was selected for study because it has a history of streambank erosion and sedimentation problems. Several mainstem and tributary sites were identified and targeted for intensive monitoring based on existing and planned stream restoration installations. While some monitoring is already in place on the mainstem Cacapon through funding provided by a NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant, the majority of the proposed work is slated to begin during the fall of 2010. Two graduate students (1 Va. Tech and 1 WVU) will be trained on this project.

A second set of LiDAR data were originally scheduled to be collected on the Mahantango Creek watershed (WE-38) in east-central Pennsylvania in late March 2010. At the time of the scheduled flight, CVI was in the process of transferring its LiDAR operation to West Virginia University. As a result, plans for data collection were rescheduled for sometime during the fall of 2010 after leaf-off.

The ADODR is in frequent contact with the cooperator through phone calls, email, and site visits in addition to receipt of written reports.

Last Modified: 7/30/2016
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