Submitted to: American Society of Agronomy
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: November 4, 1999
Publication Date: N/A
Technical Abstract: Natural landscapes exhibit physical and biological features that evolved to fulfill specific ecosystem or hydrologic functions. For instance, in many landscapes, wetlands facilitated groundwater recharge and served as nutrient sinks. The positive environmental features of natural buffer areas were not fully appreciated when native grasslands and forests were brought under cultivation. Recently, heightened awareness of the role of buffers, especially in the protection or enhancement of water quality, has stimulated extensive research on the function of natural buffers and on the design and implementation of restored buffer areas. The evolution of site-specific management for agricultural lands has also increased awareness that variation in soil properties with landscape position may be exploited to enhance production efficiency and protect water resources. An overview of the applications and uses of conservation buffers will be presented with particular emphasis on how buffers ameliorate off-site impacts of agricultural practices by reducing sediment, nutrient, and pesticide delivery into water bodies. Strengths and weaknesses of current understanding of buffer function will be summarized and priority areas for additional investigations proposed. The concept of a "landscape architecture" approach where individual parcels of the landscape are managed for specific functions will be presented as a potential model for buffer design.