Dr Garey Fox of OSU Picks Up Half Million Dollar Grant for Riparian Buffer ResearchWed, 25 May 2016 19:23:43 CDT
Riparian buffers have been installed adjacent to streams across Oklahoma, much of the United States and abroad to prevent sediment, nutrient and pesticide transport to streams from upslope land.
Because buffers primarily address the commonly observed and more easily understood surface runoff process, effectiveness becomes an issue if a pathway occurs through the subsurface. This subsurface pathway is the topic of a new grant recently received by Oklahoma State University.
Garey Fox, professor and Buchan Endowed Chair in OSU’s Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering and director and Berry Endowed Professor of the Oklahoma Water Resources Center, will serve as the lead researcher on the USDA AFRI Foundational Grant.
“This research will have wide reaching implications; the effectiveness of conservation practices will be better understood and more appropriately implemented, ensuring that funds utilized to prevent nutrient transport are successful in providing long-term agricultural sustainability,” said Fox. “We know that preferential flow is an important process in many riparian buffers that we are not capable of accounting for at this time.”
The research will be conducted with a team of scientists and engineers from OSU, the University of Florida and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The grant is worth $499,000 over the next three years (2016-2019).
The design of conservation practices such as riparian buffers typically focus on surface runoff with subsurface transport of nutrients usually assumed to be insignificant. However, subsurface transport can become important with preferential flow and can negate the intended benefits of widely adopted riparian buffers.
Foundational research is needed on surface and subsurface pathways and techniques to simulate these pathways.
The project stems from previous seed grants that investigated subsurface phosphorus movement in floodplains of streams in eastern Oklahoma. These previous seed grants were provided by OWRC grants through both the state and federal U.S. Geological Survey grant program, administered by the Water Center.
“This is a perfect example of grants from the Oklahoma Water Resources Center leading to even larger research projects and greater impact,” said Fox. “The Water Center’s seed grant program was crucial to our team establishing the foundation for this prestigious USDA AFRI Foundational Grant.”
The OWRC has an annual call for proposals to fund water research pertaining specifically to Oklahoma water issues. An advisory board of representatives from various state and federal water agencies, tribes and non-profit groups assist in the establishment of research priorities and selection of the funded projects.
This new USDA research project will directly impact Oklahoma in that the majority of the field work will occur in eastern Oklahoma. Scientists at Florida will lead key research in the laboratory and also in developing improved computer models to predict the performance of riparian buffers.
A previous OSU Ph.D. student, Derek Heeren, now a professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, also will assist on the project.
Fox noted the importance of this field, laboratory and computer simulation research in providing the key science for the design of riparian buffers.
“It’s critical that we protect our water supplies with appropriate conservation practices designed based on the best science possible. A one-size-fits-all design for riparian buffers is not the best possible science,” he said. “Accounting for preferential flow helps us account for all the important processes occurring in a riparian buffer.”
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