Can riparian fencing protect stream water quality in cattle pastures?

Authors: Bartosz Grudzinski*, Miami University, Ken Fritz, Office of Research and Development, National Exposure Research Laboratory, US Environmental Protection Agency, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA
Topics: Water Resources and Hydrology, Geomorphology
Keywords: cattle, riparian, grazing, management, water quality, watershed
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Hoover, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Cattle grazing degrades stream environments in many regions by increasing water column and stream bed sediment, nutrient, and fecal bacteria levels. Thus, riparian fencing is used as a best management practice to protect stream water quality within grazed lands. Individual studies report inconsistent results on the efficacy of riparian exclosure fencing as an effective management practice. We surveyed the literature to: 1) summarize the findings of studies examining the impact of riparian fencing on stream sediment, nutrient (nitrogen and phosphorous), and fecal indicator bacteria concentrations, 2) map the geographic distribution of these studies, 3) compare fencing effectiveness between baseflow and storm flow conditions, and 4) identify spatial and thematic gaps in the literature that can be addressed in future research. We identified 22 relevant studies across three biomes. We found that cattle exclosure fencing is generally effective at mitigating pollution in stream environments, particularly for sediment and fecal indicator bacteria. Preliminary findings suggest that fencing may be effective at reducing pollutant inputs during storm flows, however additional studies are needed to determine if fencing impacts are broadly effective during runoff events. Curiously, regions with the greatest cattle populations are lacking studies. Overall, this review suggests that riparian exclosure fencing is an effective best management practice for improving stream integrity in temperate forest and temperate grassland environments, although it may not offer complete protection.

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