An integrated sediment budget for the Root River watershed, southeastern Minnesota

The goal of this project was to determine the primary factors influencing erosion and sediment dynamics in the 4300 km2 (1660 mi2) Root River watershed, in southeastern Minnesota. Developing a comprehensive and robust understanding of sediment dynamics at such a large spatial scale is challenging due to the wide range of non-linear processes that control erosion and deposition of sediment and the immense variability of those processes in space and time. In an effort to overcome those challenges, we have conducted a wide variety of analyses that elucidate the key factors governing sediment dynamics in the Root River watershed over the range of relevant time and space scales. A coherent story has emerged from these analyses, indicating that recent (i.e., over the past few decades) agricultural soil erosion and streambank erosion are both prominent sediment sources in the Root River watershed. Additional soil conservation and soil management practices (e.g., conservation tillage, grassed waterways and buffer strips, etc.) will need to play an important role in developing a sediment reduction strategy. Furthermore, we have demonstrated that such practices can effectively reduce erosion at the farm field scale and that such practices are most important on steeper terrain.
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