, Volume 20, Issue 5, pp 731-739

Role of wetlands in reducing phosphorus loading to surface water in eight watersheds in the Lake Champlain Basin

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A landscape-level approach was applied to eight rural watersheds to assess the role that wetlands play in reducing phosphorus loading to surface waters in the Lake Champlain Basin. Variables summarizing various characteristics of wetlands within a watershed were calculated using a geographic information system and then compared to measured phosphorus loading through multiple regression analyses. The inclusion of a variable based on the area of riparian wetlands located along low- and medium-order streams in conjunction with the area of agricultural and nonwetland forested lands explained 88% of the variance in phosphorus loading to surface waters. The best fit model coefficients (Pload = 0.86Ag + 0.64For − 30Ripwet + 160) suggest that a hectare of riparian wetland may be many times more important in reducing phosphorus than an agricultural hectare is in producing phosphorus. These results provide additional support for the concept that protection of riparian wetlands is an important management strategy for controlling stream water quality in multiuse landscapes.