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Science Seminar Series


The efficacy of fall cover crops as they relate to stream water quality: A paired watershed approach.

 While it is well known that significant landscape level changes have occurred in Indiana since European settlement, there are no scientific accounts of the ecological/biological conditions that may have occurred across Indiana landscapes prior to this period. Clearing forests, draining wetlands, and altering headwater streams have facilitated the growth of agricultural productivity, but it has also compromised stream ecosystems. Excessive loss of nutrients and soil from upland areas decreases agricultural sustainability as it relates to soil health and/or water quality. While water quality issues associated with agricultural land use are scientifically quantifiable, it is difficult to prescribe solutions for nonpoint source pollutants that are realistic at a spatial scale necessary to detect an improvement in stream ecosystem integrity. This research examines the efficacy of soil and water conservation practices, through a paired-watershed approach, as they relate to reduction in movement of nutrients and soil from agricultural fields and the response of chemical, physical, and biological parameters. Each experimental watershed is a tributary of the Eel River of northern Indiana and less than 3,000 acres. Each of the streams has been equipped with automatic water samplers, pressure transducers, and data loggers. Base-line data on fish communities and export of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment have been documented prior to BMPs. Nitrate levels over 50 mg/L and Total Phosphorus levels exceeding 5 mg/L have been documented. Fish communities have been assessed at over 20 sites in the watersheds and Index of Biotic Integrity scores range from poor to good in both streams.

Goals of the study

  • Detect a change in water quality when BMP’s are applied
    • By analyzing Sediment, Nitrate, and Phosphorus concentrations in the water
  • Record the Biological community of each steam

Middle Eel River Watershed with Breargrass Creek and Paw Paw Creek Watershed. Automatic water samplers and dataloggers are placed at each loaction represented by a golen circle. Upland watersheds are highlighted in pink, Beargrass Creek, and green, Paw Paw Creek.


Biological sample sites for Beargrass Creek Watershed (top) and Paw Paw Creek Watershed (bottom)


Water chemistry after significant rain event
Gage Station
Data Logger
Downloading the Data



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