Effects of Poultry Rearing Facilities on the Biogeochemistry of Rural Headwater Streams in the South Carolina Piedmont

Authors: Ryan Thomas*, Furman University, Gregory P Lewis, Furman University, Dennis Haney, Furman University
Topics: Environmental Science, Land Use, Water Resources and Hydrology
Keywords: Biogeochemistry, poultry, poultry rearing facilities, nutrients, nutrient concentrations, livestock, stream, water, water chemistry, chemistry, agriculture, nitrogen
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Napoleon Foyer/Common St. Corridor, Sheraton, 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Globally, livestock production is increasing to satisfy higher per-capita meat consumption. However, livestock often contaminate and degrade surrounding water bodies with excess nutrients, especially nutrients derived from animal wastes. For example, litter from poultry farms that is applied to pasture may be a source of nutrients to groundwater and surface waters supplies. Our research examined whether poultry rearing facilities (PRFs) affect concentrations of dissolved nutrients and other solutes in first- to third-order streams in the Savannah and Saluda River basins of South Carolina. In the watersheds of all streams sampled, land cover was >70% forest and pasture with <20% developed land and <9% cropland. Of 21 streams sampled, 9 had PRFs upstream of the sampling location at densities ranging from 0.3 to 3.2 poultry houses/km2. All sampling was conducted under baseflow conditions during June-August 2017. Water samples were analyzed for turbidity, major anions and cations, ammonium, total dissolved nitrogen (TDN), and dissolved organic carbon. The median TDN concentration was about twice as high in streams with PRFs upstream than in those without. This difference was due mostly to higher ammonium and/or dissolved organic nitrogen, as opposed to nitrate, concentrations in streams with upstream PRFs. Additionally, median turbidity was around three times higher in streams with upstream PRFs. However, for most other solutes, concentrations did not differ significantly between streams with and without PRFs upstream. Phosphate concentrations were below detection in all streams. Additional studies are needed to determine the mechanisms by which PRFs influence stream turbidity and dissolved nitrogen concentrations.

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