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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Tifton, Georgia » Southeast Watershed Research » Research » Research Project #422732

Research Project: Enhancing Environmental Quality and Ecosystem Services in Southeastern U.S. Coastal Plain Agricultural Watersheds

Location: Southeast Watershed Research

Project Number: 6048-13000-026-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Feb 7, 2012
End Date: Feb 6, 2017

1. Quantify and assess the effects of runoff, erosion, and sediment properties on contaminant transport in agricultural watersheds of the southeastern U.S. 2. Quantify and assess the effects of agricultural conservation practices at multiple spatial and temporal scales in agricultural watersheds of the southeastern U.S. 3. Quantify and assess the effects of interactions among agroecosystems and landscape components on water supply, water quality, and other ecosystem services in agricultural watersheds of the southeastern U.S. 4. As part of the LTAR network, and in concert with similar long-term, land-based research infrastructure in Southeastern Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plain region, use the GACP LTAR to improve the observational capabilities and data accessibility of the LTAR network, to support research to sustain or enhance agricultural production and environmental quality in agroecosystems characteristic of the Southeastern Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plain region, as per the LTAR site responsibilities and other information outlined in the 2012 USDA Long- LTAR Network Request for Information (RFI) to which the location successfully responded, and the LTAR Shared Research Strategy, a living document that serves as a roadmap for LTAR implementation. Participation in the LTAR network includes research and data management in support of the ARS GRACEnet and/or Livestock GRACEnet projects.

This project will provide new knowledge on the long term effects of agricultural management on water quality, hydrology, and ecosystem services of agricultural watersheds/landscapes in the Gulf-Atlantic Coastal Plain. The region is characterized by intensive row-crop agriculture with vegetable, fruit, and nut production increasing rapidly. Riparian forests occur along stream channels. Cropping practices and patterns in the region are expected to change as bioenergy crops are introduced and as climate change affects crop choices, pest pressure, and crop management. Water quantity and quality will be affected by increased water demand, expanded acreages, increased agrichemical inputs, and increased variability in weather and climate. Ecosystem services derived from agricultural landscapes, and the potential for agriculture to enhance these services, also need quantification. The research will: a) quantify processes controlling nutrient and agrichemical transport; b) develop conservation practices to minimize environmental impacts; and c) quantify the effects of watershed management on water resources and ecosystem services. Research results will be used to better represent these processes in state of the science models. Smaller scale studies will provide new information that will enhance understandings at the field and watershed levels. Watershed scale hydrology and water quality data characterizing the impacts of bioenergy crop establishment will provide direct measures of their effects when integrated into land management. Field surveys combined with modeling will be used to determine the effects of distribution of conservation practices, pest management, water withdrawals, ponds, and irrigation uses on water quantity and quality. Comparisons of urban and agricultural water quality and quantity will serve as a direct measure of an ecosystem service from agriculture. Remote sensing tools will be used to determine how the ecosystem services soil carbon and water holding capacity are related to crop production. Long term agroecosystem research will be implemented to establish a research platform and infrastructure to study techniques of sustainable intensification of Coastal Plain agriculture at multiple scales. Partnerships will be established with research and technology transfer organizations in the southeast to establish a framework to evaluate the effects of agriculture on ecosystem services. Watershed research approaches will be augmented by landscape ecology approaches to quantify effects on ecosystem services on multiple scales, including effects of land cover change and land use intensification. New technologies will be evaluated on field and watershed scales to determine potential for increasing production with current or reduced resource use. Replicated field scale experiments and farm-scale watershed experiments will be established in conjunction with USDA, university, and private research cooperators to provide a platform for long term (decade or more) research on major crops in rotation, biomass production for bioenergy and soil carbon accretion, and integrated effects of crop production on soil ecology.