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Integrated management of in-field, edge-of-field, and after-field buffers

Dabney, S.M., Moore, M.T., Locke, M.A.
Journal of the American Water Resources Association 2006 v.42 no.1 pp. 15
riparian buffers, water quality, water erosion, water pollution, runoff, pesticide residues, soil nutrients, constructed wetlands, conservation buffers, vegetation cover, sediment yield
This review summarizes how conservation benefits are maximized when in-field and edge-of-field buffers are integrated with each other and with other conservation practices such as residue management and grade control structures. Buffers improve both surface and subsurface water quality. Soils under permanent buffer vegetation generally have higher organic carbon concentrations, higher infiltration capacities, and more active microbial populations than similar soils under annual cropping. Sediment can be trapped with rather narrow buffers, but extensive buffers are better at transforming dissolved pollutants. Buffers improve surface runoff water quality most efficiently when flows through them are slow, shallow, and diffuse. Vegetative barriers - narrow strips of dense, erect grass - can slow and spread concentrated runoff. Subsurface processing is best on shallow soils that provide increased hydrologic contact between the ground water plume and buffer vegetation. Vegetated ditches and constructed wetlands can act as "after-field" conservation buffers, processing pollutants that escape from fields. For these buffers to function efficiently, it is critical that in-field and edge-of-field practices limit peak runoff rate and sediment yield in order to maximize contact time with buffer vegetation and minimize the need for cleanout excavation that destroys vegetation and its processing capacity. JAWRA