Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2018KY284B

Modeling impacts of seasonal land cover change on fluvial sediment loads of the Upper Floyds Fork watershed, KY

Institute: Kentucky
Year Established: 2018 Start Date: 2018-03-01 End Date: 2019-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $9,646 Total Non-Federal Funds: $19,357

Principal Investigators: Andrew Day, Aimee Downs

Abstract: Seasonal changes in land cover can be significant for watersheds that contain a high proportion of agricultural land use. During the post-harvest non-growing season, cropland and pasture may lie fallow for several months in mid-high latitude climates, leaving the soil exposed and vulnerable to erosion during wetter periods. These erosive processes increase in higher relief watersheds with much of the soil depositing into the watershed tributaries resulting in sediment pollution degrading riparian zones physically, chemically and biologically. Monitoring seasonal sediment patterns is a difficult process, as this typically requires continuous field records of suspended sediment concentration that may be linked to individual precipitation events. The proposed research will utilize a combination of geographic information science (GIS) and remote sensing techniques to analyze the temporal relationship between precipitation, land cover and sediment delivery to the adjacent stream channels for the Upper Floyds Fork watershed, KY. Seasonal land cover change will be assessed by applying a Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) to Landsat imagery, generating a temporal record of vegetation coverage across the watershed. Sediment volumes will be estimated using a turbidity logger deployed at the watershed outlet to develop an empirical relationship between turbidity and a series of suspended sediment samples collected at the site. Potential major sources and timing of sediment pollution will be modeled through the ArcSWAT hydrological model in order that more informed land management practices may be employed in the future to limit this pollution.