GRASS-SHRUB RIPARIAN BUFFER REMOVAL OF SEDIMENT, PHOSPHORUS, AND NITROGEN FROM SIMULATED RUNOFF
JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN WATER RESOURCES ASSOCIATION , 43 , 2007

Mankin, K.R., Ngandu, D.M., Barden, C.J., Hutchinson, S.L., Geyer, W.A.

Riparian buffer forests and vegetative filter strips are widely recommended for improving surface water quality, but grass-shrub riparian buffer system (RBSs) are less well studied. The objective of this study was to assess the influence of buffer width and vegetation type on the key processes and overall reductions of total suspended solids (TSS), phosphorus (P), and nitrogen (N) from simulated runoff passed through established (7-year old) RBSs. Nine 1-m RBS plots, with three replicates of three vegetation types (all natural selection grasses, two-segment buffer with native grasses and plum shrub, and two-segment buffer with natural selection grasses and plum shrub) and widths ranging from 8.3 to 16.1 m, received simulated runoff having 4,433 mg⁄ l TSS from on-site soil, 1.6 mg⁄ l total P, and 20 mg⁄ l total N. Flow-weighted samples were collected by using Runoff Sampling System (ROSS) units. The buffers were very efficient in removal of sediments, N, and P, with removal efficiencies strongly linked to infiltration. Mass and concentration reductions averaged 99.7% and 97.9% for TSS, 91.8% and 42.9% for total P, and 92.1% and 44.4% for total N. Infiltration alone could account for >75% of TSS removal, >90% of total P removal, and >90% of total N removal. Vegetation type induced significant differences in removal of TSS, total P, and total N. These results demonstrate that adequately designed and implemented grass-shrub buffers with widths of only 8 m provide for water quality improvement, particularly if adequate infiltration is achieved.