alexa The Conservation Effects Assessment Project benchmark watersheds: Synthesis of preliminary findings
Agri and Aquaculture

Agri and Aquaculture

Journal of Fertilizers & Pesticides

Author(s): CW Richardson, DA Bucks, EJ Sadler

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The Conservation Effects Assessment Project was established to quantify the environmental impacts of USDA conservation programs. The Conservation Effects Assessment Project involves multiple watershed assessment studies designed to provide a scientific basis for a national assessment. The USDA Agricultural Research Service established 14 research sites—benchmark watersheds—to measure regionally specific environmental quality effects of conservation practices and to improve and validate models used by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service for their national assessment. Within each watershed, data were collected and continue to be collected to provide insight into the effects of specific conservation practices implemented under programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Conservation Reserve Program. A data storage and management system, Sustaining the Earth’s Watersheds–Agricultural Research Data System (STEWARDS), was developed to provide easy accessibility to these data for analysis. Models were validated using data from many of the watersheds and were shown to be valuable tools for extrapolating the results for a national assessment. The physical process models were also combined with economic models to optimize tradeoffs among environmental and economic objectives of conservation practices. The benchmark watershed studies have begun to identify the effects of selected conservation practices, although additional data are required to provide definitive results. A prototype of a new modular modeling system has been developed that will provide a more powerful tool for future analyses. The initial Conservation Effects Assessment Project findings and products demonstrate progress toward the overall goals of quantifying conservation practice effects and providing tools to transfer the knowledge to points where they are applied under future conservation policy.

This article was published in Journal of Soil & Water Conservation and referenced in Journal of Fertilizers & Pesticides

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