Main content area

Assessing Riparian Conservation Land Management Practice Impacts on Gully Erosion in Iowa

Zaimes, George N., Schultz, Richard C.
Environmental management 2012 v.49 no.5 pp. 1009-1021
agricultural management, buffers, cattle, conservation practices, filter strips, forests, gully erosion, pasture management, pastures, riparian areas, rotational grazing, sediments, streams, surveys, Iowa
Well-established perennial vegetation in riparian areas of agricultural lands can stabilize the end points of gullies and reduce their overall erosion. The objective of this study was to investigate the impacts of riparian land management on gully erosion. A field survey documented the number of gullies and cattle access points in riparian forest buffers, grass filters, annual row-cropped fields, pastures in which the cattle were fenced out of the stream, and continuously, rotationally and intensive rotationally grazed pastures in three regions of Iowa. Gully lengths, depths and severely eroding bank areas were measured. Gullies exhibited few significant differences among riparian management practices. The most significant differences were exhibited between conservation and agricultural management practices, an indication that conservation practices could reduce gully erosion. Changes in pasture management from continuous to rotational or intensive rotational grazing showed no reductions in gully erosion. It is important to recognize that more significant differences among riparian management practices were not exhibited because the conservation and alternative grazing practices had recently been established. As gully formation is more impacted by upland than riparian management, gully stabilization might require additional upland conservation practices. The existence of numerous cattle access points in pastures where cattle have full access to the stream also indicates that these could be substantial sources of sediment for streams. Finally, the gully banks were less important sediment contributors to streams than the streambanks. The severely eroding bank areas in streams were six times greater than those in the gullies in the monitored reaches.