Date of Award

12-1-2013

Degree Name

Master of Science

Department

Forestry

First Advisor

Schoonover, Jon

Second Advisor

Williard, Karl

Abstract

Riparian buffers are a commonly utilized best management practice (BMP) for mitigating non-point source pollution from agricultural fields. This practice is most effective when runoff enters the buffer as sheet flow. However runoff from becomes concentrated and forms concentrated flow paths (CFPs) breaking through the buffer in critical erosional areas. These critical areas can be determined prior to the implementation of a BMP such as a riparian buffer through incorporation of the Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation (RUSLE) with Geographic Information Systems (GIS). This approach utilizes field characteristics with hydrological processes in order to determine the erosion risk areas from observed field data throughout an entire watershed. In order to re-establish a riparian buffer in critical areas managers need a method that can prevent erosion and the loss of top soil. This study evaluates an innovative method, "Buffer in a Bag", used to restore riparian buffer benefits and to prevent further erosion in CFPs. There were three different treatments initiated for this study the first two treatments the "Buffer in a Bag", and Hand-Planted were implemented prior to the broadcasting of switchgrass seed. The final treatment was the Control, which required no planting within the treatment plot. The "Buffer in a Bag" treatment utilized the placement of giant cane rhizomes within burlap bags along the channel of concentrated flow. The hand planted treatment utilized the placement of giant cane rhizomes planted in the agricultural field adjacent to the path of concentrated flow. The presence of these CFPs breaking through riparian buffers has been noted, but the actual significant soil erosion occurring within the CFP and in the adjacent field has yet to be quantified. Through the use of topographical surveys and geostatistical analysis to produce digital elevation models (DEM) of in-field elevation changes the hydrological processes and volumetric difference for CFPs can be determined. The goal was to define the variability and the spatial pattern from the data as a means of providing comparisons between subsequent survey periods over time and space to estimate the difference and movement of sediment within CFPs. The volumetric differences found when comparing the DEMs between survey periods provide a quantifiable method for evaluating the implementation of a treatment, such as the "Buffer in a Bag". Using geostatistical analysis of volumetric difference between the treatment plots determined that that there was no significant difference between the CFP's over the study period. The mean percentage volumetric difference within the treatment plots between "Buffer in a Bag", Hand-Planted, and Control treatments were -2.49%, -3.72%, and -2.37%, respectively. There was overall net erosion across all treatments with the erosion and accumulation being significantly different across the survey periods for all the treatment CFPs. The mean percentage volume loss across treatments and survey periods varied from positive 10% accumulation to negative 15% erosion for overall loss when looking at each individual survey and CFP. The displayed loss of valuable topsoil and continued expansion of these concentrated flow paths emphasis the need for research in further management applications. There needs to be an effective method developed to address the volumetric difference within CFPs forming in these high risk erosion areas. Using a GIS/RUSLE approach to indicate these high risk erosion areas will hopefully facilitate the prevention of the formation of concentrated flow paths prior to the implementation of a BMP, such as riparian buffers.

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