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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: DEVELOPMENT OF MODELS AND CONSERVATION PRACTICES FOR WATER QUALITY MANAGEMENT AND RESOURCE ASSESSMENTS

Location: Grassland, Soil and Water Research Laboratory

Title: Conservation Effects Assessment Project - Preliminary findings from the watershed assessment studies

Authors
item Richardson, Clarence - USDA--RETIRED
item Bucks, Dale - USDA--RETIRED
item Sadler, Edward

Submitted to: Journal of Soil and Water Conservation Society
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: June 30, 2008
Publication Date: November 1, 2008
Citation: Richardson, C.W., Bucks, D.A., Sadler, E.J. 2008. Conservation Effects Assessment Project - Preliminary findings from the watershed assessment studies. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation Society. 63(6):590-604.

Interpretive Summary: The Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP) was established to define the environmental benefits of USDA conservation programs. CEAP involves a national assessment and multiple watershed assessment studies designed to provide a scientific basis for the national assessment. The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) established 14 research sites -- the ARS Benchmark watersheds -- to measure region-specific effects of conservation practices on environmental quality and to improve and validate models used by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in the national assessment. On these watersheds, preliminary data were collected that provide insight into the effects of specific conservation practices implemented under programs such as EQIP and CRP. A data storage and management system, STEWARDS, was developed that provides easy accessibility to these data for analysis. Models were validated using data from many of the watersheds, and the models were shown to be valuable tools for extrapolating the results in the national assessment. The physical process models were combined with economic models to provide a system for optimizing trade-offs among environmental and economic objectives of conservation practices. The ARS Benchmark watershed studies have provided preliminary indication of the effects of selected conservation practices. Additional data are required to provide definitive results. Improved models are needed to provide new tools for future assessments. A prototype of a new modular modeling system has been developed that will provide a more powerful tool for future analyses. These early findings and initial products indicate progress toward the overall goals of quantifying effects of conservation practices and providing tools to transfer the knowledge to points where they are applied. This information can be used by NRCS and other agencies for use in developing future conservation policy.

Technical Abstract: The Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP) was established to define the environmental benefits of USDA conservation programs. CEAP involves a national assessment and multiple watershed assessment studies designed to provide a scientific basis for the national assessment. The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) established 14 research sites -- the ARS Benchmark watersheds -- to measure region-specific effects of conservation practices on environmental quality and to improve and validate models used by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in the national assessment. On these watersheds, preliminary data were collected that provide insight into the effects of specific conservation practices implemented under programs such as EQIP and CRP. A data storage and management system, STEWARDS, was developed that provides easy accessibility to these data for analysis. Models were validated using data from many of the watersheds, and the models were shown to be valuable tools for extrapolating the results in the national assessment. The physical process models were combined with economic models to provide a system for optimizing trade-offs among environmental and economic objectives of conservation practices. The ARS Benchmark watershed studies have provided preliminary indication of the effects of selected conservation practices. Additional data are required to provide definitive results. Improved models are needed to provide new tools for future assessments. A prototype of a new modular modeling system has been developed that will provide a more powerful tool for future analyses. These early findings and initial products indicate progress toward the overall goals of quantifying effects of conservation practices and providing tools to transfer the knowledge to points where they are applied. This information will be critical to developing future conservation policy.

Last Modified: 4/21/2014
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