Long-term viability of US agriculture depends upon implementation of management strategies that address goals of environmental sustainability and economic viability. Unit scientists are challenged to leverage project resources with a national network of scientists to provide local, regional, and national solutions for attaining both goals. To address issues of water quality and watershed ecosystem function, investigations will pursue complementary approaches that consider the entire landscape, from upland fields to receiving water bodies. First, farm and land management technologies that reduce erosion and nutrient losses, conserve soil, and protect ecological resources will be assessed. Second, studies will be conducted to improve understanding of structure, function, and key processes of aquatic systems, guiding better management of these systems and providing a scientific basis for regulatory agencies to establish water quality criteria. Third, investigations will develop and assess technology for improving water quality and ecosystem function in agriculturally impacted aquatic systems. Fourth, investigations will assemble and use long-term databases to develop and further enhance computer models for quantifying effects of conservation measures on agricultural watershed ecosystem services. Experiments will be conducted across a range of spatial scales in laboratories and facilities at the USDA-ARS, National Sedimentation Laboratory in Oxford, MS, on regional, state, and Federal experiment stations, and on private farms and watersheds. Results from this project will advance the state of the science of watershed ecosystems and help define environmental targets, such as reducing non-point pollution, so that more effective management strategies can be established to improve water quality and ecosystem integrity.
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