Submitted to: Journal of Freshwater Ecology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/12/1996
Publication Date: N/A
Interpretive Summary: Areas of natural cover around farm fields once provided habitat for a variety of plants and animals. The use of more economically feasible equipment has forced farmers to clear many of these areas. Riparian vegetatation bordering streams has declined in recent decades for this and other reasons. In the Yazoo Basin of Mississippi a demonstration project currently evaluating standard and modified stream stability measures for their environmental soundness. A common low cost construction measure used to stop gully erosion that originates from over bank water flow is called a field scale grade control pipe. This structure creates a small natural habitat which quickly is colonized by local natural vertebrate wildlife and becomes a refuge for many animals both native and migratory. Thus, for no extra cost these structures provide a small environmental enhancement and can be used by both state and federal resource managers to enhance a farm's natural streamside environment when repairing gully related erosion.
Technical Abstract: Available natural habitat for vertebrates has declined worldwide in the past century, mainly from continuing urban and rural development. Installation of field-scale grade control structures or drop pipes is a common method for controlling knickpoint gully erosion in fields adjacent to incised streams. These structures transfer runoff water from field level to stream level through a metal drain pipe. The shape of the gully side collection basin at the pipe inlet allows small terrestrial and wetland habitats to develop with associated shallow pools that may be permanently or seasonally flooded. This study evaluated vertebrate use of habitats created by the installation of drop pipes. Four different habitats were categorized based on water depth and surrounding vegetation. Category 1 habitat has the smallest temporary pool, least vegetative structure, and is a terrestrial habitat. Categories consecutively increase to Category 4 which has the deepest pool, most vegetative structure, and is a wetland habitat. Study sites were surveyed for the five major vertebrate classes. Mean species richness and percentage capture abundance for all vertebrate classes increased from Category 1 habitats to Category 3 or 4 habitats. In all drop pipe habitat categories, amphibians had the highest percent capture abundance, fish were second, birds were third, mammals were fourth, and reptiles had the lowest percent capture abundance. Benefits from properly designed field- scale grade control pipes are two-fold: first, reducing gully erosion and secondly, creating habitats for vertebrates.