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Animal Science, Natural Resource Ecology and Management

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Factors influencing streambank erosion at the field/reach scale include both watershed and riparian land-uses, stream hydrology and channel morphology at the catchment scale. This study assesses the relationship of riparian land-uses, stream morphologic characteristics and catchment scale variables to streambank erosion within grazed riparian pastures in the Southern Iowa Drift Plain. Thirteen cooperating beef cow–calf farms and their catchments ranging from 2.5 to 12.9 km2 in the Rathbun Lake watershed in South Central Iowa (USA) were chosen to conduct this study. Results suggest that the integration of stream morphologic characteristics and riparian land-uses at both the reach and catchment scale are necessary to explain the current level of streambank erosion measured at the reach scale. Larger catchment size or catchments with more total channel length were found to experience more bank erosion at the reach scale. A significant positive relationship between percent sand-and-silt in the bank soil and bank erosion rates implies that bank soils with less cohesiveness are more erodible. Catchment-scale assessments of the thirteen watersheds showed that within the 50 m corridor on both sides of the stream, 46 to 61% of riparian area was devoted to agricultural use and only 6 to 11% was in ungrazed perennial vegetation, much of it enrolled in the USDA Conservation Reserve Program. Overall, this and previous Rathbun watershed studies have shown that intensive agricultural use of riparian areas over such extents of time and scale could be directly (in field scale) and/or indirectly (watershed scale) related to excessive amounts of streambank erosion (ranging from 8.6 to 38.3 cm/yr) to receiving streams and lakes leading to their impairment and reduction in ecological services. Exclusion of cattle grazing in the riparian areas along buffered stream lengths (2.1% of the total watershed area) of the Rathbun watershed would reduce this impact. This approach could also be applicable to other similar watersheds with extensive land-use under grazed management.


This article is published as Tufekcioglu, Mustafa, Richard C. Schultz, Thomas M. Isenhart, John L. Kovar, and James R. Russell. "Riparian Land-Use, Stream Morphology and Streambank Erosion within Grazed Pastures in Southern Iowa, USA: A Catchment-Wide Perspective." Sustainability 12, no. 16 (2020): 6461. doi: 10.3390/su12166461.


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