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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Ecological Evaluation of the Influence of Herbaceous Riparian Buffers on Headwater Agricultural Drainage Ditches in the Upper Big Walnut Creek Watershed

item Smiley, Peter
item King, Kevin

Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: February 3, 2006
Publication Date: March 1, 2006
Citation: Smiley, P.C., King, K.W. 2006. Ecological evaluation of the influence of herbaceous riparian buffers on headwater agricultural drainage ditches in the upper big walnut creek watershed. Meeting Abstract. p. 14.

Technical Abstract: The Upper Big Walnut Creek watershed contains mostly low gradient warmwater streams adjacent to row crop agriculture. The Ohio EPA has documented that the majority of headwater streams and drainage ditches in the Upper Big Walnut Creek watershed are impaired by nutrient enrichment, pathogens, and habitat degradation stemming from current agricultural management practices. We are evaluating the influence of herbaceous riparian buffers on the physical habitat and aquatic communities in agricultural drainage ditches as part of the Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP). Riparian habitat is being restored within the watershed through the Upper Big Walnut Creek Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program. The goal of this voluntary conservation program is to create and restore riparian habitat to reduce the amount of chemicals and sediment within the water flowing into the Hoover Reservoir. Our hypothesis is that implementation of herbaceous riparian buffers adjacent to headwater agricultural drainage ditches will alter the physical habitat of the riparian zones which will in turn lead to changes to the geomorphology, water chemistry, instream habitat, and community structure within these ditches. We plan to compare differences in geomorphological, riparian, hydrological, chemical, and biological characteristics among: 1) agricultural ditches without herbaceous buffers, 2) agricultural ditches with herbaceous buffers, and 3) streams with remnant riparian buffers. In 2005, we established four sites in two headwater streams and 14 sites in six drainage ditches as part of an initial assessment of current habitat and biological conditions. Aquatic habitat within ditches consists of shallow slow flowing water within low gradient, enlarged, straightened channels. The five most abundant fish species captured were fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas), creek chub (Semotilus atromaculatus), bluntnose minnow (Pimephales notatus), Johnny darter (Etheostoma nigrum), and green sunfish (Lepomis cyanellus). Additionally, many fish species captured in drainage ditches in the Upper Big Walnut Creek are also expected to occur in headwater streams within Ohio. These preliminary results suggest that the incorporation of environmental considerations into the management and design of agricultural drainage ditches would benefit fish communities within ditches.

Last Modified: 4/18/2015
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