Source: AUBURN UNIVERSITY submitted to
A LANDSCAPE-SCALE APPROACH TO WETLAND MITIGATION OF NON-POINT SOURCE AGRICULTURAL RUNOFF
Sponsoring Institution
National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Project Status
EXTENDED
Funding Source
Reporting Frequency
Annual
Accession No.
1022251
Grant No.
2020-67019-31150
Project No.
ALA061-4-19072
Proposal No.
2019-06768
Multistate No.
(N/A)
Program Code
A1451
Project Start Date
May 1, 2020
Project End Date
Apr 30, 2024
Grant Year
2020
Project Director
O`Donnell, F. C.
Recipient Organization
AUBURN UNIVERSITY
108 M. WHITE SMITH HALL
AUBURN,AL 36849
Performing Department
Civil Engineering
Non Technical Summary
Geographically isolated wetlands (GIWs) are freshwater wetlands that are not connected to a navigable waterbody, such as a river or lake. They lack the legal protections of the Clean Water Act that apply to other wetlands. Much of the water that flows into GIWs from the surrounding landscape drains into groundwater. GIWs are widespread in many agricultural regions, and healthy GIWs may be able to store and remove nitrogen and phosphorus compounds from fertilizer before they reach and pollute groundwater.These pollutants, particularly nitrate, can cause health problems in people who rely on groundwater for household use and can make groundwater unsuitable for irrigation. Restoring or conserving GIWs may be a good strategy to protect groundwater from pollution. Our research seeks to determine the characteristics of a GIW that make it effective in storing and removing nutrients. We will perform the work on the Dougherty Plain of southwestern Georgia, a region with numerous GIWs and intensive production of peanuts, cotton, and corn. We will measure the content and type of pollutants present in wetlands and the soil of the fields that surround them for GIWs spanning a range of sizes, location types, and land use histories. We will also measure rainfall and water level in the wetland to determine how rainfall is involved in moving pollutants from the field to the wetland. Rainfall can change a lot from year to year, and it is unlikely that we will see both very dry and very wet conditions during our three year study. Also, other research has found that the amount of pollutants flowing off of agricultural fields changes over years and decades as the soils adjust to being farmed in different ways. Therefore, we need to study how wetlands have changed over the 50-70 years since large-scale farming was introduced in our study region. We do this by taking samples of the sediment that has collected in the bottom of a wetland. The sediment collects in layers each year, so shallow sediment was deposited in the wetland more recently than deeper sediment. By studying the layers in the sediment, we can estimate how much pollution was entering and staying in the wetland in the past. All of the data we collect will help us describe how and why GIWs are different from each other and how they change over time. We will apply what we have learned to develop guidelines for choosing which GIWs to use limited resources to restore or conserve to gain the most benefit in terms of reducing pollution. Throughout the project, the farmers who work on the land we are studying will be involved in helping us understand how to make wetland conservation and productive agriculture work together. We will make a video about this process to help farmers in other regions, students, and people living rural communities learn about the benefits of healthy wetlands. Additionally, agricultural science students at Auburn University will learn about the project as part of their coursework, so the next generation of professionals will be aware of the value wetlands.
Animal Health Component
0%
Research Effort Categories
Basic
50%
Applied
25%
Developmental
25%
Classification

Knowledge Area (KA)Subject of Investigation (SOI)Field of Science (FOS)Percent
1330330205040%
1021830206110%
1120320310030%
1021719206110%
1020611206110%
Goals / Objectives
This project will provide fundamental insights into the spatial and temporal variability in the mediation of nutrients and sediment runoff by GIWs, ultimately improving farm economics and enhancing environmental quality for farm communities. Ourlong-term goalis to provide the scientific foundation needed to prioritize the conservation and restoration of individual GIWs on agricultural lands to balance mitigation of non-point source runoff with agricultural productivity.To achieve this goal, we have the followingsupporting objectivesto characterize spatial and temporal variability in GIW function, extend our findings to management, and communicate with stakeholders about our findings:1.Spatial:Characterize nutrient content and form across the upland-to-wetland continuum.We will determine how water level and quality dynamics vary across a representative sample of GIWs to determine the range of variability in hydrologic and biogeochemical function. We will combine sediment fingerprinting with event-scale sediment yield modeling to determine how different soil and land use types contribute sediment to GIWs.This work will also refine parameters for the Universal Soil Loss Equation (USLE) and Modified Universal Soil Loss Equation (MUSLE), which are used to address Objective 2.2.Temporal:Investigate the trajectory of nutrient deposition during agricultural expansion.We will combine paleolimnological techniques with decadal-scale sediment yield modeling using USLE to quantitatively reconstruct soil and sediment biogeochemical dynamics throughout the historical agricultural expansion period.3.Integration:Develop a prioritization framework for conserving and/or restoring individual GIWs on marginal agricultural lands to protect water quality.We will develop conceptual models to prioritize individual GIWs for restoration and conservation. Our approach builds on an existing method that is popular for regional-scale wetland restoration planning and has been used extensively in the study region (Vellidis et al. 2003; Jang et al. 2013) by extending it to finer scales to promote continuity of restoration planning across scales. The models integrate information from Objectives 1 and 2, professional judgement, and general understanding of relevant ecological principles and processes to guide planning of wetland restoration and conservation.4.Outreach:Collaborate with stakeholders to understand the value of GIWs on agricultural lands.We will involve local stakeholders in research activities and integrate the project with agricultural sciences coursework at Auburn University.We will document this collaborative process by producing a video, "Discovering Isolated Wetlands," for wider distribution.
Project Methods
Objective 1:Characterize nutrient content and form across the upland-to-wetland continuum.1. Precipitation, Water Level and Quality:At the Jones Center, long-term rainfall and water depth are collected in 18 GIWs using water-level recorders (HOBO U20L, Onset Corporation, Cape Cod, MA, USA). Water quality samples are taken at 11 onsite wetlands and 9 offsite agricultural wetlands.Alkalinity and pH are determined with a Mettler DL12 titrator, and NH4-N, NO3-N, and PO4-P are determined with a Lachat Quickchem 8000. Additional wetlands selected for study will be added to routine monitoring. Water quality from agricultural and reference wetlands will be compared to determine the degree of alteration from agricultural inputs through leaching.We will determine how the size and watershed position of a wetland influences how it is impacted by agriculture.2. Soils and Sediment Traps:In each wetland catchment, 12 samples of the upper 30 cm of soil will be collected with a core sampler (AMS, Inc., American Falls, ID, USA) and divided at 10 cm increments over the soil profile.For each increment, bulk density will be determined by weighing and soil texture analyzed with a PARIO analyzer (Meter Environment, Pullman, WA, USA). Total organic C, N, and P will be determined using a Costech CN elemental analyzer. Soil N and P data will be analyzed with water quality data to determine how the abundance of soil nutrients within the catchment influences leaching inputs. Each wetland will contain 2-4 sediment traps to measure sedimentation rate, organic matter content, C, N, and P content.Comparison of agricultural and reference wetlands will indicate the degree to which agriculture impacts wetlands through increased sedimentation and nutrient inputs from eroded sediment.3. Sediment Fingerprinting:Additional elements will be measured to construct sediment fingerprinting analyses and connect deposited materials in the wetlands with spatial origins from fields and other terrestrial environments.These data will be analyzed with LULC history data to determine the relative importance of catchment position and land use legacies in influencing how soils contribute sediment and sediment-bound nutrients to the wetland.4. Event-Scale Sediment Yield Modeling:We will parameterize MUSLE, an event-based sediment yield model, for each of the 12 wetland catchments. We will determine a site-specific curve number for each GIW catchment from the rainfall-runoffdata using the asymptotic method. We will then determine MUSLE parameters describing land use and management. This will produce a set of model parameters for common crop types and practices that will be used in Objective 2 to perform long-term sediment yield modeling.Objective 2:Investigate the trajectory of nutrient deposition during agricultural expansion.1. Sediment Core Sampling and Analysis: Sediments from each study wetland will be cored using a Russian Peat corer or Piston corer. Sediment cores will be sectioned and dated by applying the constant rate of supply model.Nutrient burial (C, N, P) will be quantified throughout the time periods of known agricultural and landscape change. The average nutrient storage for the cores will be used to determine storage over time per wetland site as well as total storage for each wetland environment.We will assess the relationship between precipitation and sedimentation rate, nutrient burial rate, and isotopic signatures.2. Decadal-Scale Sediment Yield Modeling:The wetland nutrient input rates will be related to nutrient content in the surrounding upland soils through back calculation with a sediment yield model.We will calculate long-term annual sediment yield using the Universal Soil Loss Equation (USLE).Sediment yield will be compared to sediment burial rate.Nutrient input rates measured at the wetland will provide an approximation of how the N and P content of upland soils developed during the period of agricultural expansion.This will provide a novel dataset on legacy nutrient trajectories and allow us to quantitatively determine how the land use history of a wetland catchment influences the input of nutrients.Objective 3:Develop a prioritization framework for conserving and/or restoring individual GIWs on marginal agricultural lands.1. Synoptic Assessment of Wetland Restoration:We will extend a conceptual prioritization model for wetland restoration in the southeastern coastal plain region to prioritize individual wetlands within a watershed. The model employs a benefit-cost framework. Two functional criteria, sediment storage and nutrient assimilation, will be considered based on the characterization of these processes in Objectives 1 and 2.Each term in the prioritization criteria expressions will be connected to descriptors that explain the variability in the term across watersheds and wetlands. If possible, descriptors will be selected that can be determined from publicly available data or measured easily to promote the broad use of the framework.2. Temporal Variability in Descriptors:The spatial variability in wetland characteristics and function observed in Objective 1 are a snapshot in time. Objective 2 will provide information on variability in time as a trajectory following land use change or cyclically with climate. If these changes result in substantial changes to the descriptors and indicators identified based on data from Objective 1, additional factors may be added, such as land use history or climate sensitivity.3. Cost of Restoration or Conservation:In an agricultural landscape with existing, threatened wetlands, the cost used in synoptic assessment must represent conservation as well as restoration. It must also represent the foregone farm income if the wetland is currently farmed over or would be farmed over if not conserved.The synoptic approach is designed to incorporate best professional judgment in cases where information and resources are limited. Determining the cost parameters is beyond the scope of the proposed project, so we will work with the farm stakeholder group described in Objective 4 to develop estimates of restoration/conservation cost for a representative subset of GIWs and farmed over depressions in the study area.Objective 4: Collaborate with stakeholders to understand the value of GIWs on agricultural lands.1. Educational Outreach:The Jones Center's Education Program targets natural resource managers, conservation professionals, policy makers, and private landowners. The results of the proposed research will be incorporated into isolated wetlands education themes, which are shared with the more than 1,000 annual participants in the Center's outreach programs. Institutionally, 30% of the professional staff's time is allocated to participation in the outreach program.2. Stakeholder Engagement:A stakeholder advisory board will be recruited through the Flint River Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) to provide guidance on project planning, implementation, and evaluation.Stakeholder engagement will occur formally, through annual meetings with the stakeholder advisory board, and informally, through discussions with landowners during site visits. To reach a broader stakeholder community, we will produce an educational video communicating the results of this project as a collaborative effort between project personnel and stakeholders. We will contract with Mr. Rob Nelson, an experienced science filmmaker as producer for the video.3. Future Professionals:Components of this project will benefit the training of undergraduate students at Auburn University's College of Agriculture.Co-PD Waters will use documentation, samples and results from this research to teach his course entitled "Aquatic Sediments" which is scheduled to be taught Spring 2020 and 2022.Students will be provided with a unique primary research experience at the undergraduate level.

Progress 05/01/21 to 04/30/22

Outputs
Target Audience:Rural Landowners: There are multiple target audiences for the results of this research. The target audience most linked to the work products and results generated from this research project are rural landowners actively engaged in agricultural production and are frequently faced with land use managerial issues related to GIW and modified wetland areas adjacent to agricultural lands. A primary audience. The study region is the intensive agricultural commodity-producing Dougherty Plain of southwestern Georgia, which is also noted for its abundance of GIWs. Outreach activities are planned through the Jones Center Education program, targeting natural resource professionals, through interactions with the Flint River Soil and Water Conservation District, and through discussions with landowners during individual site visits. We began producing a short 3-to-5-minute video targeting agricultural resource professionals (extension agents, agencies), producers (farm owners), and other stakeholders (e.g. members of rural communities). Conceptually, we will engage with a small group of producer/partners and document the process of discovering the presence of, and values of, GIWs on their working farms.We have developed a landowner information document describing the project rationale and salient results to help guide conversations about GIWs on working farms. Future Professionals: Components of this project have been used in the training of undergraduate students at Auburn University's College of Agriculture. Co-PD Waters used documentation, samples, and results from this research to teach his course entitled "Aquatic Sediments" which was taught in Spring 2022. In addition, a sediment core from this project was the focus of a summer NSF REU student's research. This student is part of a USGS/NSF-funded program targeting less represented STEM groups. The student finished the first summer of two analyzing a wetland sediment core with the results being presented at an REU symposium this year with the goal of a publication after next summer. Another key project goal is to increase knowledge among future professionals on the benefits of preserving GIWs in their natural state for the overall benefits they have within the watershed and aquifer region. This overarching message was promoted through college-level course material that highlights the role of GIWs within the natural resource management landscape. Changes/Problems:The Jones Center at Ichauway was closed from mid-March until early August 2020 due to the Covid 19 pandemic. Therefore, field data collection activities for the project did not begin until September 2020, a six-month delay from the original timeframe. During the current reporting period, this delay in the availability of field data resulted in delays in the preparation of publications and student theses and dissertations. While we anticipate that the original goals of the project will be achieved, it will be on a delayed timeline. What opportunities for training and professional development has the project provided?Graduate Students:The paleolimnological component of the project was the focus of the Master's research project Chloe Eggert.Chloe has completed all data collection and analysis and is currently writing her Master's thesis.She has completed all course work including her final results seminar for the department.Her expected graduation date is December 2022. The hydrological and sediment data collection and modeling components of the project are the focus of the PhD dissertation of Coleman Barrie. Coleman has successfully completed the first two years of his PhD program and his expected graduation date is 2024. Undergraduate Students: Through a USGS Climate Adaptation Scientists of Tomorrow Undergraduate Research Experience (CAST-URE) program at Auburn, Emily Boudreau is completing a two-year independent research project co-advised by PD O'Donnell and Co-PD Waters. She traveled to the Jones Center and collected wetland sediment samples and catchment soil samples with guidance from MS student Chloe Eggert. Jones Center: In addition to student training, the project is providing training opportunities for entry-level technicians. Jones Center employs, on average, about 25 seasonal technicians each year. Most of these technicians have a B.S. or B.A. degree and less than 2 years of science work experience. For many, this is the first job after college, and these positions often serve as a bridge to graduate school. During the reporting period, three seasonal employees were trained on various aspects of the project. One technician in Co-PD Golladay's lab was trained in sediment coring and water quality analysis. Threetechnicians in Co-PD Brantley's lab were trained in the installation, maintenance, and data retrieval for water-level recorders and rain gauges, and in sampling and processing sediment traps. How have the results been disseminated to communities of interest?Two graduate students presented preliminary results at the Alabama Water Resources Conference in September 2021. The conference brings together researchers and practitioners working on water resources management, protection, and conservation in the southeast. 4H2O: A one day program introducing middle school 4H students to the importance of water in agriculture. The event is organized by the UGA Stripling Irrigation Research Park in Camilla Georgia. The USDA Ag-Wetlands Team provided an hour-long program to the group with 3 themes: water quality, sediment studies, and aquatic critters. The water quality and sediment studies themes provided content derived from the Ag-Wetland Project. Number of participants - 75; date of event - July 13, 2021 Graduate student Coleman Barrie gave a 10-minute field presentation to Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey and two of his staff. Coleman focused on the importance of wetlands for ecosystem services, the potential of wetlands in agricultural settings to provide those services, and the development of best practices to preserve or improve wetland function. What do you plan to do during the next reporting period to accomplish the goals?Objective 1: Field collection of hydrology and sediment data will be concluded in fall, 2022, which marks two years of data collection. The historical SWAT modeling methods that were successfully applied to one agricultural wetland in the past year will be extended to the other wetlands. Model outputs will be compared across wetlands to determine how factors such as contributing area, topography, land cover, soil type, and agricultural management practices affect sediment and water delivery to the wetlands. By applying the models over the historical period of agricultural expansion on the Dougherty Plain, we are able to produce model simulations of sediment yield across a very broad range of conditions. Objective 2: The paleolimnological data from the agricultural core and reference core will be used to prepare documents for stakeholders and farmer communication.Specifically, the unique P history captured in the ag core as well and the ecosystem services demonstrated in the storage amounts will be a focus for stakeholder engagement.Our results show that GIWs are performing extensive ecosystem services and that farmers should be considered for benefits by promoting wetland health.In addition, we are completing our analysis of the surface samples and will be able to form inferences from these data in the coming year.As for sediment cores, we have cored additional agricultural wetlands and will use these cores to show reproducibility of the high storage amounts which will all us to extrapolate our results to other wetland systems. Objective 3: Integration of sediment core data and sediment yield predictions from historical SWAT model applications for all of the study wetlands will allow us to quantitatively study how wetlands store and process sediment across a broad range of settings, land uses, and climate conditions. Based on our preliminary results, we are particularly interested in understanding how climate events and land cover change interact to drive high rates of sedimetation. We will be able to determine which wetlands are most efficient at storing sediment while maintaining biogeochemical function to prioritize conservation and restoration. Objective 4: A video highlighting the importance of project research and results will be completed in collaboration with Motion House Media LLC to initiate the production of the outreach video. Project team members Golladay and Sweeney are working with the Flint Soil and Water Conservation District to build our network of agricultural stakeholders beyond the owners of the research sites. Co-PD Waters will use documentation, samples, and results from this research to teach his course entitled "Aquatic Sediments" which is scheduled to be taught Spring 2022teach his ENVI 1010 - Environmental Science Seminar. These data will also be incorporated to the biogeochemical lecture Dr. Waters gives to several classes throughout Auburn.Most of the students benefiting from these lectures will be freshmen.It is Dr. Waters' intent to use the unique and interesting story of the GIW data to promote research and the integration of environmental and agricultural understanding.

Impacts
What was accomplished under these goals? Impact: Wetlands store and break down contaminants, such as nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizer, protecting downstream drinking water sources and habitats. A common strategy for protecting water quality is conserving and restoring wetland buffers along streams and rivers that drain agricultural lands. In some regions, such as the Dougherty Plain of Georgia, most wetlands are geographically isolated, meaning that they are not directly connected to a stream or river, but most still have flow paths that carry water from the wetland to other water bodies or groundwater. There is a need to understand the role that isolated wetlands on or near farms play in protecting water quality so that effective management strategies can be developed to protect wetlands while maintaining agricultural productivity. 1. Spatial: Characterize nutrient content and form across the upland-to-wetland continuum. Hydrology and Sediment Modeling: Precipitation and water level data is being collected at 15-minute intervals at each study wetland. The first full year of data collection was completed. Sediment traps are installed in each wetland and one full year of monthly sediment deposition data has been collected. As expected, sediment deposition is much higher in agricultural than in forested wetlands. However, there was substantial variation among the agricultural wetlands in sedimentation rate, ranging from 0.11-2.27 g of sediment per cm2 of wetland area per year. The highest sedimentation rates were observed in one section of a bermed wetland that has a large contributing area relative to the wetland size. Hydrologic monitoring showed that water levels equilibrated quickly between the sections of the bermed wetland, indicating that berms disrupt sediment connectivity but not hydrologic connectivity. The SWAT model was parameterized and run for a single agricultural wetlandfor the historical period from 1920-2020. Historic land use and rainfall were reconstructed from available records to provide model inputs. Water Quality Data:Water quality samples were taken at agricultural and reference wetlands in January, March, May, August (preharvest), and November (postharvest) 2021. In 2022, samples were collected in January, March, and May. The samples were analyzed for alkalinity, pH, TC, IC, TOC, suspended solids, NH4-N, NO3-N, PO4-P, TP, and TN. Principal component analysis was used to visualize the 2021 water quality data (R, Vienna, Austria). Two axes were selected for visualization and explained 64.3% of the variation in the data. Agricultural wetlands were characterized by greater suspended solid material, pH, alkalinity, IC, NH4-N, NO3-N, PO4-P, TP, and TN. Reference sites generally had greater TOC concentration than agricultural wetlands. Nutrient concentrations throughout the year show high concentrations from nutrient input followed by decreases in concentrations as the nutrients are processed. 2. Temporal: Investigate the trajectory of nutrient deposition during agricultural expansion. A paleolimnological investigation was completed for one reference and one agricultural core. Organic C in the reference wetland is high at the top of the core (23%) and decreases downcore compared to the agriculture wetland which has a consistent organic carbon presence (2%) and increases (5%).While these numbers suggest that the reference wetland stores a greater amount of organic C, by applying 210Pb dating techniques and mass sedimentation rate analysis, the reference wetland contains a very slow sedimentation rate of around 30 mg/cm2/yr with the last ~150 years being represented in the top 10cm of the core.In contrast, the agricultural wetland contained sedimentation rates that reached over 2,000 mg/cm2/yr and averaged a magnitude higher throughout the entire core.The last ~150 years in the agricultural wetland were captured in the top 35cm of the sediment core resulting in total organic C storage in the ag core to be much greater than the reference wetland. P stratigraphic change documented unique periods of agriculture in the area.P inputs were low and consistent in the agricultural wetland until around 1970.At this point, P concentrations increase to the highest levels recorded in the core.This increase corresponds to the onset of irrigated agriculture in the region. P concentrations decrease in the 1990s.We infer that management practices such as precision agriculture, decrease in tillage, and nutrient regulations are demonstrated in this decrease.In addition, based on the environmental characteristics of the wetland as a sediment storage vessel as well as repeated wetting and drying periods, the P did not cause harmful algal blooms nor total algal productivity increases.Greater increases in algal photosynthetic pigments in the sediment core corresponded to spikes in erosional dynamics rather than nutrient dynamics.Likewise, P and Fe were correlated in the sediments suggesting the much of the P could be bound and unavailable for algal growth, which is further supported by the lack of photosynthetic pigments. By combining nutrient concentrations and mass sedimentation rates from 210Pb analysis, total storage of nutrients in the agricultural wetland were calculated.Since 1886 CE, the agricultural wetland of 0.5 hectares has stored 54,447 pounds of organic C, 3,097 pounds of N, and 29,337 pounds of P.The organic carbon storage is on a magnitude of importance for global models needing to include geographic isolated wetlands as significant hotspots of C sequestration.In addition, the P storage numbers demonstrate an important ecosystem service of removing this nutrient from moving into nearby waterways.The lower N numbers are inferred as demonstrating large amounts of denitrification in the system but further study will be needed.We are working through two more agricultural GIW sediment cores to test the reproducibility of these numbers. 3. Integration: Develop a prioritization framework for conserving and/or restoring individual GIWs on marginal agricultural lands to protect water quality. Comparison of results from the SWAT model, sediment traps, and sediment cores demonstrated that the three methods produce similar estimates of wetland sedimentation rates despite operating at vastly different time scales (daily, monthly, and multi-year, respectively). Large spikes in sediment yield were observed in the core data that are not represented by the historical application of the SWAT model that appears to be related to the interaction of climate and land use change. We are currently working to improve the representation of these sediment yield spikes in the model to make watershed modeling a more useful tool for developing the prioritization framework. 4. Outreach: Collaborate with stakeholders to understand the value of GIWs on agricultural lands. The project team collected 100+ video clips and 300+ digital images of research sites, interactions with landowners, instrument installation, and sampling. These were all taken in HD (video) or uncompressed (tiff - still imagery) format for use in producing informational materials targeting stakeholder audiences. Imagery from this collection has been used in technical presentations listed below. We have begun video production with Matt Hanner, Director of Photography at Motion House Media LLC, (MHM, motionhousemedia.com). MHM has prior experience with USDA informational video production and has worked previously with project team members (Golladay and Brantley). We have developed a brief summary of projected objectives, methods, and results to share with landowners and other agricultural professionals to stimulate discussion about the regional importance of GIWs.

Publications


    Progress 05/01/20 to 04/30/21

    Outputs
    Target Audience:Rural Landowners: The target audience most linked to the work products and results generated duringthis project are rural landowners actively engaged in agricultural production. Theyare frequently faced with land use managerial issues related to geographically isolated wetland (GIW) and modified wetland areas adjacent to agricultural lands.A primary audience. The study region is the intensive agricultural commodity producing Dougherty Plain of southwestern Georgia, which is also noted for its abundance of GIWs. Within this reporting period, we engaged primarily with the owners of working farms that we considered as potential study sites for the project.Candidate landowners were contacted to gauge their interest and willingness to allow research on their farms. In most cases, these conversations were complex and extended over multiple emails, phone, and/or digital conference conversations. Landowners were provided with copies of our landowner information guide and given opportunity to ask questions and discuss the proposed work.The inability (from COVID) to meet in person or as a group complicated thisprocess, but we did find ways to address theunique concerns raised by each landowner. Future Professionals:Components of this project will benefit the training of undergraduate students at Auburn University's College of Agriculture. Co-PD Waters collecteddocumentation, samples, and results during this reporting period to teach his course entitled "Aquatic Sediments" which is scheduled to be taught Spring 2022. When collecting wetland cores from an agricultural site and reference site, an additional core was collected. These cores will be used as the lab component for the course. Students will be divided into lab groups and assigned a section of one of the two cores, providingwith a unique primary research experience at the undergraduate level. Results will be presented by one of the students at a regional or national meeting as either a poster or oral presentation. Changes/Problems:The Jones Center at Ichauway was closed from mid-March until early August 2020 due to the Covid 19 pandemic. Research staff were working from home (WFH) during this period. Staff had full access to Center IT resources through remote connection but were not allowed to work in laboratories or the field during this period. Professional travel was not permitted, and outreach activities were limited to digital format. From August 2020 to June 2021, the Center operated under a Covid-restricted protocols following CDC guidance. Labs and field work were permitted with adherence to masking and social distancing. Small groups of external collaborators were permitted on-site, which allowed for wetland field sites to be sampled and instrumented. In person educational activities did not resume until June 2021. Covid restrictions limited our ability to interact with stakeholders and begin video production. We still anticipate that all project goals will be achieved, but Objective 4 may occur on a longer timeline than originally planned. What opportunities for training and professional development has the project provided?We recruited two Auburn University graduate students to join the project team: (1) a Ph.D in Civil and Environmental Engineering, who is co-advised by PD O'Donnell and Co-PD Brantley, and (2) a M.S. student in Crop, Soil, and Environmental Science, who is co-advised by Co-PD Waters and Co-PD Golladay. The students were engaged in the site selection process and refinement of the research methodology. With mentorship from the project directors, they are now takingleadership roles in field data collection and analysis for the project. With financial support from the project, the students had the opportunity to attend and present at the Georgia Water Resources Conference during this reporting period. In addition to student training, the project is providing training opportunities for entry-level technicians. Jones Center employs, on average, about 25 seasonal technicians each year. Most of these technicians have a B.S. or B.A. degree and less than 2 years of science work experience. For many, this is a first job after college, and these positions often serve as a bridge to graduate school. During the reporting period, three seasonal employees were trained on various aspects of the project. One technician in Co-PD Golladay's lab was trained in sediment coring and water quality analysis. Two technicians in Co-PD Brantley's lab were trained in installation, maintenance, and data retrieval for water-level recorders and rain gauges, and in sampling and processing sediment traps. How have the results been disseminated to communities of interest?Three members of the project team (PD O'Donnell and two graduate students) presented a project overview and preliminary results at the Georgia Water Resources Conference in March 2021. The conference brings together researchers and practitioners working on water resources management, protection, and conservation in the state of Georgia. In August 2020, we completed a landowner information guide that provided a plain text description of isolated wetlands (with photos), a rationale for studying them in agricultural settings, what we planned to measure, and how we propose to communicate our activities. Names and contact information for research team leaders and members were included. This was distributed to landowners and discussed with them prior to project initiation on their properties. Co-Pi's Golladay and Brantley discussed the project and visited reference wetlands during a site visit by a photojournalist commissioned by the Georgia Climate Project to document climate change impacts in Georgia (3/16/2021). What do you plan to do during the next reporting period to accomplish the goals?Objective 1:Field collection of hydrology and sediment datawill continue for the next reporting period approximately on the monthly timestep to improve length of time series for present-day modeling. Next summer, sediment traps will be collected after isolated storm events to aid calibration of event-scale sediment yield modeling on the daily timestep. Upland soils data within the wetland catchment will be analyzed for particle size distribution, bulk density, and organic matter content for model input and determination of the soil erodibility factor in MUSLE and USLE.Data will begin to be pre-processed and organized for present-day hydrology and sediment yield model input. Scripts will be written in Matlab to determine the daily fluctuations of wetland water level from and cumulative daily rainfall from the data loggers. Additional data for model input include trimmed elevation, land cover, soils, temperature, relative humidity, and solar radiation. The elevation (AMSL) and coordinate location of equipment and wetland features will also be determined for outreach, publication, and preliminary indication of depressional depth of wetlands on the landscape. Modeling mechanics will also be investigated. The goal is to simulate wetland hydrographs and sediment yield at the daily and monthly timestep similar to SWAT and APEX. Wetland hydrology simulation poses a difficulty because stormwater is stored much longer in wetlands than streams. Wetland bathymetry is needed for accurate simulation of wetland hydrology. Through cooperation with the Jones Center at Ichauway, terrestrial LiDAR can be utilized in dry conditions to ultimately determine a stage-storage curve. Accuracy of wetland hydrology modeling will be validated by simulating 20 years of staff gage data (collected twice monthly) in a forested study wetland at the Jones Center at Ichauway. Consistent and reliable water level and weather data grants the opportunity to test methods over long time periods once wetland bathymetry is determined. This information will be developed into a manuscript for peer review. Objective 2:Given the nature of paleolimnological processing, each core is at a different stage of analysis and can take months to complete. The cores that have been taken to date have been archived and sampled for percent organic matter and bulk density. Preliminary results show that agricultural wetlands exhibit organic matter deposition deeper into core stratigraphy suggesting increased storage and preservation when compared to reference wetlands. Two of the long cores (one reference site and one agriculture site) have been processed to the elemental analysis stage. Conversations with landowners and use of210Pb dating weill be used to identify when conversion to agricultureoccurred and can help distinguish changes in wetland function due to agricultural practices. Most210Pb dating should be completed in the next year. It is proposed that seasonal drying has led to elevated denitrification thus reducing N storage in agricultural wetlands.Nitrogen stable isotopes, which should be run in the next year, should aid in understanding N biogeochemical processes. In the coming year, cores from the remaining sites will be collected and subsequent lab analysis will be completed. Photosynthetic pigments will be run as a proxy for primary production and to identify historical algal community composition. Each long core will be dated using210Pb. The bacon dating model will provide a sedimentation rate per year can be related to percentage nutrient content to acquire nutrient deposition. The bulk of the coring field work and lab work is estimated to be completed within the next year. Objective 3:The project directors from the Jones Center at Ichauway will visit Auburn University during the next reporting period. During this time, they will attend thesis/dissertation committee meetings for the two graduate students supported by the project. These meetings will summarize progress on Objectives 1 and 2. The entire project team will then meet to plan integration of the results to address Objective 3. Objective 4:A subcontract will be finalized withMotion House Media LLC to initiate production of the outreach video. Project team members will attend meetings of the Flint Soil and Water Conservation District to build our network of agricultural stakeholders beyond the owners of the research sites. A one day program introducing middle school 4H students to the importance of water in agriculture is planned. The event willorganized by the UGA Stripling Irrigation Research Park in Camilla Georgia. The project team will providean hour-long program to the group with 3 themes: water quality, sediment studies, and aquatic critters. The water quality and sediment studies themes build on content derived from project results. Co-PD Waters will use documentation, samples, and results from this research to teach his course entitled "Aquatic Sediments" which is scheduled to be taught Spring 2022. When collecting wetland cores from an agricultural site and reference site, an additional core will be collected. These cores will be used as the lab component for the course. Students will be divided into lab groups and assigned a section of one of the two cores. Students will be provided with a unique primary research experience at the undergraduate level. Results will be presented by one of the students at a regional or national meeting as either a poster or oral presentation. Another key project goal is to increase knowledge among future professionals on the benefits of preserving GIWs in their natural state for the overall benefits they have within the watershed and aquifer region. This overarching message will be promoted through college-level course material that highlights the role of GIWs within the natural resource management landscape.

    Impacts
    What was accomplished under these goals? Impact: Wetlands store and break down contaminants, such as nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizer, protecting downstream drinking water sources and habitat. A common strategy for protecting water quality isconservingand restoringwetland buffers alongstreams and rivers that drain agricultural lands. In some regions, such as the Dougherty Plain of Georgia, most wetlands are geographically isolated, meaning that they are not directlyconnected to a stream or river, but most still have flow paths that carry water from the wetland to other water bodies or groundwater. There is a need to understand the role that isolated wetlands on or near farmsplay in protecting water quality so that effective management strategies can be developed to protect wetlands while maintaining agricultural productivity. During this reporting period, we identified four wetlands to study on working farms. These wetlands are different in ways that will help us learn about the effect of different types of management. For example, one wetland has an unfarmed area around it, while another is farmed up to the edge. We can compare data from these two wetlands to determine if maintaining an unfarmed buffer improves wetland function. We installed monitoring instruments and began collecting water and sediment samples from each wetland. This information will allow us to determine how sediment, water, and nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizers are moving into and through the wetlands. We also have collected photos and videos of our work and begun working with a mediaspecialist to produce an outreach video. Ourlong-term goalis to provide the scientific foundation needed to prioritize the conservation and restoration of individual GIWs on agricultural lands to balance mitigation of non-point source runoff with agricultural productivity. Site Selection:We reviewed remote sensing and field measurements from 70 wetlands in the Dougherty Plain Region of southwestern Georgia. We selected a subset of these that had met criteria for inclusion in our study. We used our network of contactsin the farm community to identify and recruit potential cooperating landowners. Candidate landowners were contacted to gauge interest and willingness to allow research on their farms. In most cases, these conversations were complex and extended over multiple emails, phone, and/or digital conference conversations. Landowners were provided with copies of our landowner information guide and given the opportunity to ask questions and discuss the proposed work. Despite the inability (from COVID) to meet in person or as a group, we were able to address theunique concerns of each landowner. Ultimately, wetlands were selected from twolarge agricultural operations. Four agricultural wetlands on these operations were chosen, and two reference forested wetlands were selected at the Jones Center at Ichauway. The position and catchment landcover of each study wetland outlined gradients for potential future studies concerning interfaces between forested and agricultural runoff. Management considerations to guide analysis were also considered after viewing the different sites: increasing vegetative buffer and establishing inter-wetland connectivity by installing culverts in wetlands divided by center pivot berms. 1.Spatial:Characterize nutrient content and form across the upland-to-wetland continuum. Hydrology and Sediment Intrumentation and Modeling:Wetland catchments were delineated ito determine proximity to other wetlands, position of catchment in the landscape,land cover, and ratio of wetland to catchment area. One agricultural wetland is embedded in a center pivot field and is divided by ramps for navigation of the irrigation system. This created three distinct wetland sections without culverts that were delineated and instrumented individually.Rain gages, water level loggers, and sediment traps were installed in each wetland as preliminary indicators of water, sediment, and nutrient transport to and storage in the wetlands from upland areas. Information from sediment traps and data loggers was collected approximately monthly to characterize wetland loading and associated storage/processing. Total suspended solids and oven drying methods for each sediment trap determine the amount of allochthonous material entering the wetland. Water Quality Data:Water quality samples were taken at agricultural and reference wetlands during January, and March 2021. The samples were analyzed for alkalinity,pH, NH4-N, NO3-N, PO4-P, TC IC, TOC,TP and TN.Principal component analysis was used to visualizethe water quality data (PCord V6, MjM Software Design, Gleneden Beach OR). Two axes were selected for visualization based on a randomization procedure (p<0.001) and explained 67% of the variation in the data. Wetland types separated along axis 1 with agricultural wetlands characterized by greater suspended material and alkalinity compared to reference sites. Reference sites generally had greater TOC concentration than agricultural wetlands. Ag-wetland nitrogen concentrations separated along axis 2 with March samples having greater NO3-N and NH4-N at one of the wetland sites. 2.Temporal:Investigate the trajectory of nutrient deposition during agricultural expansion. Three of the six sites have been sampled totaling three long-cores and 36 surface sediment short-cores. In the two reference sites, 16 and 11 short cores were taken, and 8 short cores were taken in the agriculture site. Each core is at a different stage of processing. Due to the shallow depths and inability of boat use, a manual coring method was used from within the wetland by inserting the core barrel to desired depth. Wet sediment is used to measure bulk density and percentage organic matter using a Loss-on-Ignition method. The remaining sediment was freeze-dried for further analysis. One reference and one agriculture long core have been processed to the elemental analysis stage. Organic C in the reference wetland is high at the top of the core (23%) and decreases dramatically downcore compared to the agriculture wetland that has a consistent organic carbon presence (2%) and increases (5%). The shift in percent C may indicate an ecosystem shift from forested wetland converted to agriculture field.Unexpectedly, N in the agricultural wetlands is low but constant through time (0.2±0.08%).Phosphorous levels, on the contrary, are elevated in the agricultural wetland (0.9±0.2 mg g-1) compared to the reference wetland (0.2±0.2 mg g-1). Elevated micronutrients Mg (0.7±0.1ppm) and Ca (3±0.3ppm) in the agriculture wetlands could be indicative of the application of Dolomitic limestone used to neutralize soils. Potassium, another common nutrient in fertilizer, is also elevated in the agriculture site (0.5±0.1ppm). Spatial distribution of organic matter accumulationis heterogeneousin reference wetlandsbut homogenous in agriculture wetlands. 3.Integration:Develop a prioritization framework for conserving and/or restoring individual GIWs on marginal agricultural lands to protect water quality. Nothing to report. 4.Outreach:Collaborate with stakeholders to understand the value of GIWs on agricultural lands. The project team collected 100+ video clips and 300+ digital images of research sites, interactions with landowners, instrument installation, and sampling. These were all taken in HD (video) or uncompressed (tiff - still imagery) format for use in producing informational materials targeting stakeholder audiences. Imagery from this collection has been used in technical presentations listed below. We have begun discussions of video production with Matt Hanner, Director of Photography at Motion House Media LLC, (MHM, motionhousemedia.com). MHM has prior experience with USDA informational video production and has worked previously with project team members (Golladay and Brantley).

    Publications