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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Surface Water Quality

Prairie and Turf Buffer Strips for Controlling Runoff from Paved Surfaces


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 36 No. 2, p. 426-439
    Received: June 16, 2006

    * Corresponding author(s): ksteinke@ag.tamu.edu
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  1. K. Steinke *a,
  2. J. C. Stierb,
  3. W. R. Kussowc and
  4. A. Thompsond
  1. a Dep. of Soil and Crop Sciences, Texas A & M Univ., College Station, TX 77843
    b Dep. of Horticulture, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI 53706
    c Dep. of Soil Science, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI 53706
    d Dep. of Biological Systems Engineering, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI 53706


Eutrophication of surface waters due to nonpoint source pollution from urban environments has raised awareness of the need to decrease runoff from roads and other impervious surfaces. These concerns have led to precautionary P application restrictions on turf and requirements for vegetative buffer strips. The impacts of two plant communities and three impervious/pervious surface ratios were assessed on runoff water quality and quantity. A mixed forb/grass prairie and a Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis L.) blend were seeded and runoff was monitored and analyzed for total volume, total P, soluble P, soluble organic P, bioavailable P, total suspended solids, and total organic suspended solids. Mean annual runoff volumes, all types of mean annual P nutrient losses, and sediment loads were not significantly affected by treatments because over 80% of runoff occurred during frozen soil conditions. Total P losses from prairie and turf were similar, averaging 1.96 and 2.12 kg ha−1 yr−1, respectively. Vegetation appeared to be a likely contributor of nutrients, particularly from prairie during winter dormancy. When runoff occurred during non-frozen soil conditions turf allowed significantly (P ≤ 0.10) lower runoff volumes compared with prairie vegetation and the 1:2 and 1:4 impervious/pervious surface ratios had less runoff than the 1:1 ratio (P ≤ 0.05). In climates where the majority of runoff occurs during frozen ground conditions, vegetative buffers strips alone are unlikely to dramatically reduce runoff and nutrient loading into surface waters. Regardless of vegetation type or size, natural nutrient biogeochemical cycling will cause nutrient loss in surface runoff waters, and these values may represent baseline thresholds below which values cannot be obtained.

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