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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Oxford, Mississippi » National Sedimentation Laboratory » Watershed Physical Processes Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #307030

Research Project: Technologies for Managing Water and Sediment Movement in Agricultural Watersheds

Location: Watershed Physical Processes Research

Title: A perspective of the USDA watershed erosion and sedimentation research

item Romkens, Mathias

Submitted to: International Conference on Hydroscience and Engineering (ICHE)
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/15/2014
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Soil erosion and sedimentation research started in earnest with the catastrophic events of the “Dustbowl” in the 1930s. Since those years, the research program of the USDA gradually evolved in scope from an initial data collection phase to a process-analytical phase and a modeling phase that has led to an array of sophisticated models capable of predicting soil loss for a variety of different hydrologic, soil type, topographic, and cropping management conditions. These relationships have greatly assisted conservationists in recommending soil erosion control practices to Action Agencies and the farming community. During this evolving process, the scope of the research program expanded to also cover water quality and ecological research in which much of the experiences and information gained and learned in soil erosion and conservation could be used to address these problems as well. Finally, the research program also encompassed, through a Congressional mandate, the development of advanced numerical models of water and contaminant transport by the University of Mississippi’s National Center for Computational Hydroscience and Engineering (NCCHE) that will greatly assist in meeting the mission of the National Sedimentation Laboratory and the USDA ARS. This article describes in a chronological sequence the highlights of this research as experienced from the perspective of the National Sedimentation Laboratory.

Technical Abstract: Ever since Europeans immigrated to and opened up the interior of the USA, soil erosion and sedimentation problems were part of the early American agricultural legacy, which ultimately led to the devastating "Dustbowl" in the 1930s. This article provides a brief overview of the research that was initiated, the practices that were used, and the models that were developed at the field and watershed scale in response to this calamity. This paper presents in a chronological sequence the research that resulted and its accomplishments. It indicates collateral developments of addressing agriculturally related water quality and ecological research, watershed modeling, and the broadening scope of the mission of the USDA-ARS natural resources research at the National Sedimentation Laboratory (NSL). The article also identifies areas of research deficiency and needs to provide a more holistic research approach of addressing erosion and sedimentation problems at the watershed scale. Finally, it expresses deep concern for the systemic financial problems that this research faces in today's budget climate and the planned elimination of vital research by administrative fiat.