The effects of cattle grazing on stream stability have been well documented for the western portion of the U.S., but are lacking for the east. Stream and riparian damage resulting from grazing can include alterations in watershed hydrology, changes to stream morphology, soil compaction and erosion, destruction of vegetation, and water quality impairments. However, few studies have examined the successes of best management practices (BMPs) for mitigating these effects. The objective of this project was to assess the ability of two common BMPs to reduce streambank erosion along a central Kentucky stream. The project site consisted of two replications of three treatments: (1) an alternate water source and a fenced riparian area to exclude cattle from the stream except at a 3.7 m wide stream ford, (2) an alternate water source with free stream access, and (3) free stream access without an alternate water source (i.e., control). Fifty permanent cross-sections were established throughout the project site. Each cross-section was surveyed monthly from April 2002 until November 2003. Results from the project indicated that the incorporation of an alternate water source and/or fenced riparian area did not significantly alter stream cross-sectional area over the treatment reaches. Rather than exhibiting a global effect, cattle activity resulted in streambank erosion in localized areas. As for the riparian exclosures, changes in cross-sectional area varied by location, indicating that localized site differences influenced the processes of aggradation and/or erosion. Hence, riparian recovery within the exclosures from pretreatment grazing practices may require decades, or even intervention (i.e., stream restoration), before a substantial reduction in streambank erosion is noted.

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Published in Transactions of the ASAE, v. 48, issue 1, p. 181-190.

© 2005 American Society of Agricultural Engineers

The copyright holder has granted the permission for posting the article here.

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Funding for this project was provided by a grant from the USDA Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES) through the National Water Quality Program. Additional funds were obtained from a state water quality grant (SB−271) and the Southern Region SARE Graduate Student Award.