Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2017VT86B

Phosphorus export from forested watersheds in the Missisquoi Basin

Institute: Vermont
Year Established: 2017 Start Date: 2017-03-01 End Date: 2018-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $10,004 Total Non-Federal Funds: $28,342

Principal Investigators: Donald Ross, Beverley Wemple, Vanesa Perillo

Abstract: Forested watersheds are an important source for clean, high-quality water, yet forest harvesting and other landuse practices in forested watersheds can degrade water quality. Water quality contaminants of concern in Vermont, namely phosphorus and sediment, exported from forested watersheds are considered minor relative to other land uses. This is both because of a lack of phosphorus inputs into most forested landscapes and a relative lack of disturbance that minimizes sediment losses. However, the large areal extent of forest land-use in many watersheds, including that of Lake Champlain, results in forest contributions to phosphorus export being a significant portion of the total basin loads. Because of this, watershed-wide phosphorus reduction plans have proposed up to 50% reduction in phosphorus from the forested sector. To date, little data exist on phosphorus export from forested watersheds in our region, making it difficult to formulate reduction plans. We began sampling two small, forested watersheds under active forest management in the Missisquoi basin of Lake Champlain in the spring of 2016 and will continue this monitoring during 2017. We will couple this monitoring with data available from two pristine watersheds in the basin and supplement our work with a third watershed actively undergoing logging. Data collected will include discharge, sediment, total phosphorus and dissolved phosphorus under a range of management conditions represented in these five watersheds. We will produce the first-of-a-kind measurements of phosphorus export from these forested landscapes.