Evaluating the impacts of agricultural land management practices on water resources: A probabilistic hydrologic modeling approach

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Evaluating the effectiveness of agricultural land management practices in minimizing environmental impacts using models is challenged by the presence of inherent uncertainties during the model development stage. One issue faced during the model development stage is the uncertainty involved in model parameterization. Using a single optimized set of parameters (one snapshot) to represent baseline conditions of the system limits the applicability and robustness of the model to properly represent future or alternative scenarios. The objective of this study was to develop a framework that facilitates model parameter selection while evaluating uncertainty to assess the impacts of land management practices at the watershed scale. The model framework was applied to the Lake Creek watershed located in southwestern Oklahoma, USA. A two-step probabilistic approach was implemented to parameterize the Agricultural Policy/Environmental eXtender (APEX) model using global uncertainty and sensitivity analysis to estimate the full spectrum of total monthly water yield (WYLD) and total monthly Nitrogen loads (N) in the watershed under different land management practices. Twenty-seven models were found to represent the baseline scenario in which uncertainty of up to 29% and 400% in WYLD and N, respectively, is plausible. Changing the land cover to pasture manifested the highest decrease in N to up to 30% for a full pasture coverage while changing to full winter wheat cover can increase the N up to 11%. The methodology developed in this study was able to quantify the full spectrum of system responses, the uncertainty associated with them, and the most important parameters that drive their variability. Results from this study can be used to develop strategic decisions on the risks and tradeoffs associated with different management alternatives that aim to increase productivity while also minimizing their environmental impacts.




Prada, A. F., Chu, M. L., Guzman, J. A., & Moriasi, D. N. (2017). Evaluating the impacts of agricultural land management practices on water resources: A probabilistic hydrologic modeling approach. Journal of Environmental Management, 193, 512–523. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2017.02.048

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