PROJECT TITLE: Guidelines for Siting Effective Riparian Forest Buffers
SPONSOR: USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture
PROJECT DURATION: 1 September 2010 to 31 August 2013
PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATORS: Kevin McGuire, Durelle Scott (VT), Joshua Faulkner (WVU), Nicolas Zegre (WVU), Beth Boyer (Penn State), Judy Okay (Chesapeake Bay Program)
COLLABORATORS: Richard Alexander (USGS)
GRADUATE STUDENTS: Courtney Reijo, MS student
PROJECT SUMMARY: The Chesapeake Bay has been heavily altered by human activity and landscape change. The most persistent problem is excessive nutrient loading from tributaries in the basin. Riparian forest buffers have been proposed as one solution for reducing nutrient loading to the Bay and its tributaries. However, nutrient removal efficiencies vary widely among riparian systems and few guidelines, other than buffer width, have been developed for water quality improvement associated with riparian buffers. Riparian planting programs have largely been voluntary and opportunistic at most, leading to a need for the development of specific guidelines for watershed-scale planning and decision-making efforts. In this project, a GIS (Geographical Information System)-based model is being developed to assess riparian buffer characteristics that support high potential for nutrient removal within the tributaries of the Bay watershed. A series of topographic, soil, and geomorphic attributes of riparian zones will be evaluated using the SPARROW (spatially referenced regression on watershed attributes) framework to determine if they have a detectable and statistically significant impact on in-stream nitrogen loads. The analysis will highlight which attributes are most significant, where on the landscape these attributes are located, and at what scale geospatial techniques can be combined and used to assess riparian character for water quality purposes. Results from this study will be used to create a set of recommendations for siting locations for effective riparian buffers (e.g., planting projects) to help improve surface water quality.