Submitted to: Sustainability of Wetlands and Water Resources Conference Proceedings
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/1/1999
Publication Date: 5/20/2000
Technical Abstract: Drainage ditches within deltaic agricultural production landscapes have been historically recognized for their ability to promote field drainage and reduce flooding and less so for any ecosystem function. Sufficient hydroperiod, storage capacity, and geographic drainage relations in these channels often provide for cycling and transformation of nutrients, pesticides, and sediments before surface water reaches receiving streams. Many of the macrofeatures in constructed wetlands exist in ditches and can be used as efficient mitigation tools and managed for their positive impact on water quality. However, with the paucity of information concerning ditch classification and ecology, there is limited advice on optimal maintenance or design regarding these attributes. Ditches across the production landscape of northeast Arkansas were selected for the characterization of soils, water quality, vegetative conditions, and physical dimensions in relation to their drainage and use. The survey incorporated sampling of macroinvertebrates as a biotic community index to examine if parameters typically measured in wetlands or low-gradient streams could serve to stratify and place ditches into distinct classifications. Sampling techniques were applied to 100 m reaches within ditches and followed rapid visual-based approaches currently used with the U.S. EPA's bioassessment protocols modified for low-gradient streams. This survey provided a relatively comprehensive characterization of the physical structure of agricultural ditches in relation to the surrounding field drainage.