Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Plant and Soil Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Mark S. Coyne


The Kentucky Division of Water indicates that agriculture is responsible for 55% of the Commonwealth’s assessed streams not supporting their designated uses. Riparian buffers reduce nonpoint source pollution in agroecosystems by storing and cycling nutrients, stabilizing streambanks, increasing infiltration, and storing water. Specific information regarding riparian buffer management is needed for land managers to maximize buffer effectiveness at reducing agricultural contaminants impairing water quality.

Baseline soil properties (texture, pH, C and nutrients) of the riparian buffer surrounding a tributary of Cane Run Creek in Fayette County, KY were characterized prior to imposing three mowing regimes (intense, moderate, and no mow treatments) and one native grass regime. Measurements were made along parallel transects located 2-m and 8-m distances from the stream. Root biomass, aggregate distribution, and saturated hydraulic conductivity were measured along the 2-m transect in two consecutive years following treatment establishment. The 2-m transect soils had the highest C, pH, Ca, Zn, and sand content. The 8-m transect had the highest P, K, Mg, and clay content. Semivariogram analysis of C content indicated slight to moderate spatial dependency along the 2m transect and moderate to strong spatial dependency along the 8m transect. Root biomass increased with decreased mowing frequency at the surface depth after one year; the native grass treatment had significantly less root biomass in both years compared to mowing treatments. There was no significant treatment effect on aggregate size distribution at the surface depth in either year. Mean weight diameter and large macroaggregates decreased from 2011 to 2012. Vegetation treatment had no statistically significant effect on water stable aggregates or saturated hydraulic conductivity. Experimental semivariograms provided evidence of spatial structure at multiple scales in root biomass, aggregates, and soil C. Spatial variability occurred over a shorter lag distance in 2012 than 2011, suggesting an effect of imposed treatments slowly developing over time.

This study provides important insights on riparian buffer soil properties, soil sampling strategies to detect spatial variability in riparian buffers, and length of time needed to assess effects of vegetation management regimes on riparian root biomass, soil aggregates, and hydraulic conductivity.

Included in

Agriculture Commons