Vegetated buffer strips (VBSs) are widely encouraged as a cost-effective strategy to address phosphorus (P) pollution associated with agricultural production. However, there is a lack of evidence in the effectiveness of these measures for tackling diffuse P pollution in cold-climate regions under concentrated runoff flow conditions. This research aimed to investigate the effects of VBSs on reducing P concentrations in surface runoff at three different watersheds in Manitoba, Canada. Surface runoff samples were collected in four sub-catchments from each watershed by installing paired weirs at 0.5-m and at 5-m into the VBSs along the expected runoff flow path. In addition, P concentrations were measured in soil samples collected within and outside of the runoff flow path to gain further insight into P dynamics within VBSs at each study site. The results indicate that VBSs had little or no significant effect on reducing the concentration of P forms in surface runoff in the majority of situations, resulting in reduced runoff losses of total, dissolved and particulate P concentrations in only 23, 12 and 12% of the situations, respectively. In addition, Olsen extractable P concentrations in VBS soils were not significantly different from field soils both within and outside of the flow path. The ineffective P retention by VBSs in this region is likely associated with the fact that the majority of the runoff flow is concentrated through small portions of VBSs and occurs during snowmelt when biogeochemical processes responsible for P retention in VBSs are limited. Further research is needed to develop alternative management practices that enhance P retention during concentrated snowmelt runoff events in such cold-climate regions.
Environmental Science and Pollution Research – Springer Journals
Published: Jun 22, 2017
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