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Lake Nutrient Responses to Integrated Conservation Practices in an Agricultural Watershed

Richard E. Lizotte Jr., Lindsey M. W. Yasarer, Martin A. Locke, Ronald L. Bingner, Scott S. Knight
Journal of environmental quality 2017 v.46 no.2 pp. 330-338
AGNPS model, Conservation Reserve Program, agricultural watersheds, aquatic ecosystems, best management practices, conservation buffers, conservation practices, conservation tillage, monitoring, nitrates, nitrogen content, nutrient content, oxbow lakes, phosphorus, pollution load, rain
Watershed‐scale management efforts to reduce nutrient loads and improve the conservation of lakes in agricultural watersheds require effective integration of a variety of agricultural conservation best management practices (BMPs). This paper documents watershed‐scale assessments of the influence of multiple integrated BMPs on oxbow lake nutrient concentrations in a 625‐ha watershed of intensive row‐crop agricultural activity during a 14‐yr monitoring period (1996–2009). A suite of BMPs within fields and at field edges throughout the watershed and enrollment of 87 ha into the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) were implemented from 1995 to 2006. Total phosphorus (TP), soluble reactive phosphorus (SRP), ammonium, and nitrate were measured approximately biweekly from 1996 to 2009, and total nitrogen (TN) was measured from 2001 to 2009. Decreases in several lake nutrient concentrations occurred after BMP implementation. Reductions in TP lake concentrations were associated with vegetative buffers and rainfall. No consistent patterns of changes in TN or SRP lake concentrations were observed. Reductions in ammonium lake concentrations were associated with conservation tillage and CRP. Reductions in nitrate lake concentrations were associated with vegetative buffers. Watershed simulations conducted with the AnnAGNPS (Annualized Agricultural Non‐Point Source) model with and without BMPs also show a clear reduction in TN and TP loads to the lake after the implementation of BMPs. These results provide direct evidence of how watershed‐wide BMPs assist in reducing nutrient loading in aquatic ecosystems and promote a more viable and sustainable lake ecosystem. CORE IDEAS: We showed watershed‐scale effects of integrated BMPs on lake nutrient concentrations. Decreases in several lake nutrient concentrations occurred after BMP implementation. Model simulations corroborated observed reductions in nutrient loads with BMPs. Results demonstrate watershed‐wide BMPs reduce nutrient loading in aquatic systems.