The Stroud Preserve Reforested Riparian Buffer

Project Background

Project Area

The project is being carried out within the Stroud Preserve, a 197-hectare tract in Chester County, Pennsylvania that is held in conservation easements that assure control over land-use in perpetuity. The area of the riparian forest buffer system is approximately 1 hectare of the 16.2 ha of the Morris Run watershed. The location of the sampling station at Morris Run is 39°56’ 41" N, 75°39’13"W.

Relevant Hydrologic, Geologic, and Meteorological Factors

The average annual precipitation is 115 mm (45 inches). Soils on the Preserve are mainly typic hapludults, but those in the riparian areas are aquic fragiudults. A weathered rock or saprolyte extends to a typical depth of 5-7 m with a bedrock consisting mainly of fractured schist. Slopes average about 10%.

Aerial map of study area

The reforested buffer surrounds the headwaters of Morris Run, in one of three experimental watersheds on the Stroud Preserve, near West Chester, Pennsylvania, USA.

Land Use

All but a few hectares of the Morris Run watershed are maintained in contoured strips under a crop rotation program established by the U.S.D.A. Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The primary crops are maize, soybeans, and hay (alfalfa). Records are being kept of all fertilizer applications, and of crop yields.

Most of the watershed of Mine Hill Run, the reference watershed, is planted in alfalfa, maize, and soybeans, also under NRCS conservation tillage. A sparsely forested, brushy zone extends 50-200 m from the stream. Land use in this watershed is being maintained without alteration.

The Half Way Run Watershed was in production for row crops and hay prior to 1992 when it was reforested with hardwood seedlings.

Water Resource Type and Size

Morris Run, Mine Hill Run, and Half Way Run are perennial headwater streams in watersheds of 16.2, 36.1, and 15.1 hectares, respectively. They flow into the Brandywine River, which has a 750-km watershed, and is a tributary to the Delaware Estuary.

Water Uses and Impairments

The Brandywine River provides varied water supply and recreational uses and is classified for warm water and migratory fishes in its lower reaches, trout stocking and cold water fishes in various upper reaches. Agricultural sources contribute to elevated nutrient concentrations and sediment loads.

Pollutant Sources

Agricultural fertilizers and atmospheric deposition are the primary sources for elevated exports of nitrogen from the basins. Erosion from tilled fields is the primary source of sediment export. Both erosion and fertilization contribute to elevated phosphorus exports.

Water Quality Objectives

Primary objectives of this project are to: 1) demonstrate the effectiveness of riparian reforestation, when used in conjunction with sound nutrient management and erosion control practices on uplands, in reducing non-point source pollution from agricultural sources and 2) to establish specific guidelines for planting and managing forest buffers zones in the mid-Atlantic region.

Project Time Frame

  1. Initiation of routine water chemistry sampling: Jan 1992
  2. Planting of riparian zone in hardwood seedlings: Apr 1992
  3. Installation of level spreader: May 1994
  4. NMP Monitoring Project: Apr 1997-Mar 2007