Precision riparian buffers for the control of nonpoint source pollutant loading into surface water: A review

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Environmental Reviews


Numerous studies have shown the effectiveness of riparian buffers in reducing sediment, pathogen, and nutrient loads into surface and groundwater in agricultural catchments. Reported retention rates of sediment, N, and P were as high as 97%, 85%, and 84%, respectively. Often, however, riparian buffers fail to perform their protective functions due to low adaptability of their designs to local settings. This is caused by our inadequate understanding of the conditions under which riparian buffers perform the best at field scale. Therefore, a precision oriented approach based on thorough analysis of spatially variable characteristics of landscape has to be undertaken in riparian buffer construction. Such an approach has a potential to improve the protective qualities and the economic viability of the riparian buffers. This paper gives an overview of the current level of research on riparian buffers and discusses the importance of spatial variability of local conditions on their performance. It presents the approaches for precision buffer design and its practical implementation and highlights the directions for future development of precision conservation. © 2005 NRC Canada.

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