USDA Conservation Practices Increase Carbon Storage and Water Quality Improvement Functions: An Example from Ohio

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We compared potential denitrification and phosphorus (P) sorption in restored depressional wetlands, restored riparian buffers, and natural riparian buffers of central Ohio to determine to what extent systems restored under the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wetland Reserve Program (WRP) and Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) provide water quality improvement benefits, and to determine which practice is more effective at nutrient retention. We also measured soil nutrient pools (organic C, N, and P) to evaluate the potential for long-term C sequestration and nutrient accumulation. Depressional wetland soils sorbed twice as much P as riparian soils, but had significantly lower denitrification rates. Phosphorus sorption and denitrification were similar between the restored and natural riparian buffers, although all Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) practices had higher denitrification than agricultural soils. Pools of organic C (2570–3320 g/m2), total N (216–243 g/m2), and total P (60–71 g/m2) were comparable among all three NRCS practices but were greater than nearby agricultural fields and less than natural wetlands in the region. Overall, restored wetlands and restored and natural riparian buffers provide ecosystem services to the landscape that were lost during the conversion to agriculture, but the delivery of services differs among conservation practices, with greater N removal by riparian buffers and greater P removal by wetlands, attributed to differences in landscape position and mineral soil composition. At the landscape, and even global level, wetland and riparian restoration in agricultural landscapes will reintroduce multiple ecosystem services (e.g. C sequestration, water quality improvement, and others) and should be considered in management plans


Restoration Ecology



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