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Management Practices Used in Agricultural Drainage Ditches to Reduce Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia

Abstract

Agricultural non-point sources of nutrients and sediments have caused eutrophication and other water quality issues in aquatic and marine ecosystems, such as the annual occurrence of hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico. Management practices have been implemented adjacent to and in agricultural drainage ditches to promote their wetland characteristics and functions, including reduction of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment losses downstream. This review: (1) summarized studies examining changes in nutrient and total suspended solid concentrations and loads associated with management practices in drainage ditches (i.e., riser and slotted pipes, two-stage ditches, vegetated ditches, low-grade weirs, and organic carbon amendments) with emphasis on the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley, (2) quantified management system effects on nutrient and total suspended solid concentrations and loads and, (3) identified information gaps regarding water quality associated with these management practices and research needs in this area. In general, management practices used in drainage ditches at times reduced losses of total suspended solids, N, and P. However, management practices were often ineffective during storm events that were uncommon and intense in duration and volume, although these types of events could increase in frequency and intensity with climate change. Studies on combined effects of management practices on drainage ditch water quality, along with research towards improved nutrient and sediment reduction efficiency during intense storm events are urgently needed.

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Acknowledgements

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits discrimination in all its programs and activities on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, and, where applicable, sex, marital status, familial status, parental status, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, political beliefs, reprisal, or because all or part of an individual’s income is derived from any public assistance program (not all prohibited bases apply to all programs). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. Mention of trade names or commercial products in this paper is solely for the purpose of providing specific information and does not imply recommendation or endorsement by the US Department of Agriculture.

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Correspondence to Derek R. Faust.

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Faust, D.R., Kröger, R., Moore, M.T. et al. Management Practices Used in Agricultural Drainage Ditches to Reduce Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia. Bull Environ Contam Toxicol 100, 32–40 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00128-017-2231-2

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Keywords

  • Agriculture
  • Nutrients
  • Water quality
  • Wetlands