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Synthesizing and Extending Lessons Learned from the 13 CREES-CEAP Watersheds


The principal goal of the proposed project is to improve the effectiveness of conservation practices and programs toward the achievement of water quality goals across the nation. <P>Our first objective is to summarize and describe the science-based information and lessons-learned from the diverse CSREES-CEAP projects and build a coherent framework that yields comprehensive understanding of the impacts of conservation practices and programs on water resources. <P>Our second objective is to ensure that the new knowledge gained from this synthesis is delivered to decision makers. This delivery must be done in an effective and timely way so that better informed policy decisions within key organizations (such as USDA-NRCS (national, state, and district), state agricultural and environmental agencies, and universities) will improve agricultural landscape management, and, thereby, achieve environmental goals.

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Non-Technical Summary: Most studies on the effectiveness of conservation practices, which protect water quality, have often focused on plot or field-scale research. There is a need to understand the benefits of conservation practices at a watershed scale. USDA-CSREES has funded thirteen watershed-scale projects that are investigating the effects of conservation practices on water quality at a watershed scale. To evaluate the effects of conservation practices, we will review these projects using science-based strategies and extend the results to policy makers and the general public. <P> Approach: The methodology developed for this assessment relies on a series of nested, science-based strategies to evaluate the effects of the conservation practices used in the 13 CREES-CEAP projects. Our approach will be based on five key components: 1. Develop a consistent framework for collection and organization of assessment information. Broadly, the assessment will identify relationships between the physical-agricultural system, conservation characteristics, conservation acceptance, and water quality changes. Each of these relationships will be presented in the framework that is developed for analysis of the CSREES-CEAP projects. Conservation practice adoption will also be analyzed from a social and economic perspective to better understand the broad practice choice, acceptance, implementation and proper maintenance of conservation practices. We will also compare outreach techniques and effectiveness among the CSREES-CEAP projects. 2. Pilot test framework in four CREES-CEAP projects. We will select four CEAP projects in which to pilot test the draft framework. Our objective is to identify and select a subset of CEAP projects that spans the diversity of the CREES-CEAP project population with respect to socio-demographic, socio-economic, and biophysical dimensions. In this process, we will consider numerous factors, including pollutants, hydrology, watershed size, agricultural systems, water resource impairments, water quality data monitoring design and duration, analytical protocols, statistical design, water quality model selection and application, selection and implementation of conservation practices, longevity of practices, quality of the conservation practice data, and social and economic conservation acceptance. 3. Summarize lessons learned from the 13 CREES-CEAP watershed projects. The process for summarizing and synthesizing the lessons learned from the remaining nine projects will be similar to the pilot process. The results from the final synthesis of lessons learned will be presented at the 2011 national Water Conference and at the annual Soil and Water Conservation Society meeting. 4. Prepare a multiple-project synthesis of findings from the 13 CSREES-CEAP watersheds and those from other CEAP and watershed-scale water quality programs. We will select only ARS-CEAP projects for the multiple-project synthesis. The science-based information developed from the combined projects will increase the diversity and veracity of the lessons learned with respect to measurement of effects of conservation practices on water quality and the management and/or implementation of conservation programs and practices. 5. Conduct outreach and education effort to inform decision-making for conservation program development and implementation. A fully developed communication, extension and outreach plan will include: 1) a final report sent to Congress, government agencies, and commodity, farm and environmental organizations, 2) fact sheets, 3) presentations, 4) newsletters, 5) promotional brochures, 6) presentations, and 7) conferences.

Osmond, Deanna
North Carolina State University
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