CONSERVATION PRACTICES IN NORTHEASTERN GRAZING LANDS
Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research
2011 Annual Report
1a.Objectives (from AD-416)
The objective of this cooperative research project is to evaluate the watershed-level effects of agricultural land use and Best Management Practices in the Spring Creek watershed in central Pennsylvania by using aerial remote sensing topographic data and on-farm sampling to characterize within-farm placement of agricultural and conservation land uses relative to local drainage networks.
1b.Approach (from AD-416)
Previous CEAP-related research in the Spring Creek watershed funded the collection of fine-grained LIDAR topographic data and collection of basic information on agricultural BMPs applied within the watershed. Further on-farm mapping and producer interviews will be used to identify land use types on the grazing farms within this watershed. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) will be used to map water flow paths within farms, and to characterize the spatial position of land use types with differing potential for nutrient and sediment runoff relative to those flow paths. This Specific Cooperative Agreement will be used to hire a post-doctoral research associate to conduct the watershed research, and to work closely with the cooperator on the analysis of LIDAR data.
Placement of riparian conservation practices may be improved by incorporating quantitative topographic information at a sufficiently-detailed resolution. Digital elevation models at three scales (30m, 10m, 1m) were used to determine flow path length and stream entry points for water from every grid cell within the 100m riparian zone in the Spring Creek watershed of central Pennsylvania. Animal concentration areas and known best management practices were digitized from high-resolution aerial photography and overlain on the topographic and flow path maps to assess the efficacy of conservation planning in this watershed. Overland flow from concentration areas can be a source of sediment and nutrients to the stream. The 30m elevation data were too coarse to provide accurate estimates of water flow paths, but incorporating 10m elevation data into conservation planning has potential to improve both the placement of best management practices to mitigate runoff from concentration areas and the placement of new concentration areas to take advantage of existing management practices. Progress was monitored through regular meetings and a written report prepared by University collaborators. Several conference presentations, popular presentations, and fact sheets have been prepared, and a scientific manuscript has been completed.