Land Based Solutions to Eutrophication -Exploring the use of ACPF in a Canadian context

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Abstract/Description of Original Work

Agricultural conservation measures (ACM’s) are actions taken at the farm scale with the intention of maintaining agricultural production while simultaneously reducing soil and nutrient runoff into freshwater ecosystems. In the Great Lakes basin, they are an essential land-based tool for addressing eutrophication and harmful algal blooms downstream. In these contexts, large reductions in watershed-level nutrient loss have the potential be achieved, through the coordinated placement of ACM’s, resulting in improved surface water quality at relatively low economic cost. The Agricultural Conservation Planning Framework (ACPF) is a decision-support tool designed to assist conservation managers improve freshwater quality by optimizing ACM placement at the watershed scale. Using a case study approach, we adapted the ACPF GIS Toolbox for watersheds in Essex County, Ontario that feed into the western basin of Lake Erie, a hotspot of eutrophication and harmful algal blooms. Here we present the first adaption of the ACPF toolbox for a Canadian watershed. To investigate the utility for real-world application by conservation practitioners, we compared two agriculturally-dominated watersheds: River Canard (less forested) and the Cedar Creek (more forested) both in Essex County. Geospatial statistics and multivariate analysis provide additional insight into whether watershed scale conservation actions are being effectively optimized to maximise freshwater health improvements. Results from this effort suggest that mismatches in the implementation of ACMs across a watershed exist and are a factor in disappointing freshwater restoration outcomes. We provide actionable recommendations for research, practitioners and decision-makers to help advance further application of this tool in SW Ontario.

 

Land Based Solutions to Eutrophication -Exploring the use of ACPF in a Canadian context

Agricultural conservation measures (ACM’s) are actions taken at the farm scale with the intention of maintaining agricultural production while simultaneously reducing soil and nutrient runoff into freshwater ecosystems. In the Great Lakes basin, they are an essential land-based tool for addressing eutrophication and harmful algal blooms downstream. In these contexts, large reductions in watershed-level nutrient loss have the potential be achieved, through the coordinated placement of ACM’s, resulting in improved surface water quality at relatively low economic cost. The Agricultural Conservation Planning Framework (ACPF) is a decision-support tool designed to assist conservation managers improve freshwater quality by optimizing ACM placement at the watershed scale. Using a case study approach, we adapted the ACPF GIS Toolbox for watersheds in Essex County, Ontario that feed into the western basin of Lake Erie, a hotspot of eutrophication and harmful algal blooms. Here we present the first adaption of the ACPF toolbox for a Canadian watershed. To investigate the utility for real-world application by conservation practitioners, we compared two agriculturally-dominated watersheds: River Canard (less forested) and the Cedar Creek (more forested) both in Essex County. Geospatial statistics and multivariate analysis provide additional insight into whether watershed scale conservation actions are being effectively optimized to maximise freshwater health improvements. Results from this effort suggest that mismatches in the implementation of ACMs across a watershed exist and are a factor in disappointing freshwater restoration outcomes. We provide actionable recommendations for research, practitioners and decision-makers to help advance further application of this tool in SW Ontario.