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Influence of herbaceous riparian buffers on physical habitat, water chemistry, and stream communities within channelized agricultural headwater streams
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Herbaceous riparian buffers (CP 21 grass filter strips) are a widely used agricultural conservation practice in the United States for reducing nutrient, pesticide, and sediment loadings to agricultural streams. The ecological impacts of herbaceous riparian buffers on the channelized agricultural headwater streams that are common throughout the midwestern United States have not been evaluated. We sampled riparian habitat, geomorphology, instream habitat, water chemistry, fishes, and amphibians for 4 years from three channelized agricultural headwater streams without herbaceous riparian buffers and three channelized streams with herbaceous riparian buffers in central Ohio. Only seven of 55 response variables exhibited differences between buffer types. Riparian widths were greater in channelized headwater streams with herbaceous riparian buffers than streams without herbaceous riparian buffers. Percent insectivores and minnows were greater in channelized streams without herbaceous riparian buffers than streams with herbaceous riparian buffers. Percent clay, turbidity, specific conductance, and pH differed between buffer types only during one sampling period. No differences in geomorphology and amphibian communities occurred between buffer types. Our results suggest channelized agricultural headwater streams with and without herbaceous riparian buffers are similar physically, chemically, and biologically. Installation of herbaceous riparian buffers alone adjacent to channelized agricultural headwater streams in central Ohio and other parts of the midwestern United States may only provide limited environmental benefits for these stream ecosystems in the first 4–6 years after establishment. Alternative implementation designs combining the use of herbaceous riparian buffers with other practices capable of altering nutrient and pesticide loads, riparian hydrology, and instream habitat are needed.
Smiley, Peter C. Jr.
King, Kevin W.
Fausey, Norman R.
Ecological engineering 2011 Sept., v. 37, no. 9
Journal Articles, USDA Authors, Peer-Reviewed
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