Performance of grass and eucalyptus riparian buffers in a pasture catchment, Western Australia, part 2: water quality

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Hydrological Processes


riparina buffer, nutrient retention, phosphorus, BMP, vegetated filter strip


Declining water quality on the south coast of Western Australia has been linked to current agricultural practices. Riparian buffers were identified as a tool available to farmers and catchment managers to achieve water quality improvements. This study compares 10 in wide regenerating grass and Eucalyptus globulus buffer performance. Surface and subsurface water quality were monitored over a 3-year period. Nutrient and sediment transport were both dominated by subsurface flow, in particular through the B-horizon. and this may seriously limit the surface-runoff-related functions of the riparian buffers. Riparian buffer trapping efficiencies were variable on an event basis and annual basis. The grass buffer reduced total phosphorus, filterable reactive phosphorus. total nitrogen and suspended sediment loads from surface runoff by 50 to 60%. The E. globulus buffer was not as effective. and total load reductions in surface runoff ranged between 10 and 40%. A key difference between the grass and E. globulus buffers was the seasonality of sediment and nutrient transport. Surface runoff. and therefore sediment and nutrient transport. occurred throughout the year in the E. globulus buffer. but only during the winter in the grass buffer. As a consequence of high summer nutrient and sediment concentrations. half the annual loads moving, via surface runoff pathways through the E. globulus buffer were transported during intense summer storm. This Study demonstrates that grass and E. globulus riparian buffers receiving runoff from pasture under natural rainfall can reduce sediment and nutrient loads from surface runoff. However, in this environment the B-horizon Subsurface flow is the dominant flowpath for nutrient transport through the riparian buffers, and this subsurface flow pathway carries contaminant loads at least three times greater than surface runoff. Copyright (c) 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. [References: 66]