SERA-46

SERA-46

Framework for Nutrient Reduction Strategy Collaboration: the Role for Land Grant Universities

Situation

The Gulf of Mexico covers approximately 600,000 square miles and is the ninth largest body of water in the world. Coastal wetlands in the Gulf encompass over five million acres (about half of the U.S. total) and serve as important habitat for numerous fish and wildlife species.  Gulf fisheries are some of the most productive in the world. It is home to 141 federally protected species (102 are endangered) including fish, birds, turtles, alligators, coral and plants.

hypoxia

FIGURE 1. Mississippi and Atchafalaya River Basin (MARB) in the USA and the general location of the hypoxic zone in the Gulf of Mexico – to the southwest of New Orleans.

The Mississippi River accounts for nearly two-thirds of the freshwater flows to the Gulf of Mexico. The Mississippi-Missouri River is the fourth longest in the world (3,710 miles or 5,970 km) draining the third largest river basin in the world (1.2 million mi2 or 3.1 million km2) (Figure 1).  More than 72 million people live in the Mississippi River Basin. It is the migration corridor for 60 percent of North America’s bird species and supports 25 percent of its fish species.  The river provides water to more than 50 cities and 18 million people.

Annually, the United States grows more than one-third of the corn and soybeans in the World and much of this production is in the Mississippi River Basin (USDA-National Agricultural Statistics Service, http://www.nass.usda.gov/). Large amounts of wheat, cotton and rice are grown in the Basin and it contains extensive cattle and hog operations. More than 70% of the nitrogen and phosphorus delivered to the Gulf of Mexico is associated with agricultural activities (Alexander et al., 2008). Read more here.

It is estimated that prior to 1980 10.4 million hectares of the 18.1 million hectares of wetlands in the Mississippi River Basin were drained primarily to support crop production (Hey and Philippi, 1995). From 1980 to 2005, nitrogen loadings ranged from 0.8 million to 2.2 million metric tons per year. Over the same period, values of phosphorus loadings were between 0.08 million and 0.18 million metric tons per year (Aulenbach et al., 2007). Nitrate load in the Mississippi River increased about threefold from the 1950s to the mid-1990s (Goolsby and Battaglin, 2001).  The high nutrient loads, loss of floodplains and wetlands, population growth, anthropogenic changes to the landscape, increased combustion of fossil fuel, engineering of the river system, and point sources are the primary causes of water quality problems in the Basin, hypoxia in the Gulf, and a decline in the assimilative capacity and resilience of these systems.

Since 1985, the size of the hypoxic zone in the Gulf of Mexico has exceeded 3860 mi2 (10,000 km2) in most years and more than 7720 mi2 (20,000 km2) in several years. While only about 30% of the size of the hypoxic zone in the Baltic Sea it is the second largest hypoxic zone in the world. Annual sizes of the hypoxic zone range from areas larger than the State of Delaware to the size of New Jersey. Nutrient impacts on the Gulf of Mexico, The Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay, and other water resources have resulted in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requiring states to establish numeric nutrient standard for rivers and lakes. In 2010, Wisconsin was the first state to set phosphorus standards.

What is SERA-46?

SERA-46 is Southern Extension and Research Activities committee number 46. It is one of a group of formal USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and land-grant university funded committees designed to promote multistate, research and extension activities. SERA-46 was created to operationalize a Non-funded Cooperative Agreement between the Mississippi River Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force (Hypoxia Task Force) and land-grant university Extension and Experiment Stations in the North Central and Southern Regions of the United States (http://www.nccea.org/, http://asred.msstate.edu/, http://ncra.info/, http://saaesd.ncsu.edu/). SERA-46 brings together researchers and extension specialists sharing a common interest an expertise related to the environmental, social, and economic factors that contribute to nutrient loss from agricultural lands, state-level nutrient impairments, and hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico. All extension and research activity committees are approved by Experiment Station and Extension Directors and NIFA and report to them annually.

SERA-46 Goal

Promote effective implementation of science-based approaches to nutrient management/conservation that reduces nutrient losses to the environment.

Objectives

  1. Establish and strengthen relationships that can serve the missions of multiple organizations addressing nutrient movement and environmental quality. Specifically, SERA-46 is focusing on strengthening relationships among land-grant universities, the Hypoxia Task Force and its member agencies, and agriculture.
  2. Expand the knowledge base for discovery of new tools and practices as well as for the continual validation of recommended practices.
  3. Improve the coordination and delivering of educational programming and increase the implementation effectiveness of nutrient management strategies that reduce nutrient movement for agricultural and non-agricultural audiences.

Progress

In May 2015, SERA-46 and the Hypoxia Task Force agreed upon a shared list of priorities for collaboration. Priorities cover research and outreach needs that take into account environmental, social, and economic factors that contribute to nutrient loss from agricultural lands, state-level nutrient impairments, and hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico. Example priorities include sharing the latest research on nutrient management and adoption of best practices; identifying common attributes and gaps across state nutrient strategies, highlighting opportunities for cross state information sharing and learning; developing social measures of impact for use in priority watersheds; and strengthening a network of watershed leaders (including those that are farmers) to increase the effectiveness of strategies for reducing nutrient losses from agricultural lands.

Meeting in St. Louis, Missouri: April 25-27, 2016

 SERA-46 Agenda-St. Louis, Missouri

For more information on SERA-46 please contact:

Administration

Co-Chairs: Matt Helmers, Iowa State University and Amanda Gumbert, University of Kentucky

Research Administrative Advisor: Eric Young, North Carolina State University

Extension Administrative Advisor: Robin Shepard, University of Wisconsin

 

 

Mike Daniels

Mike Daniels
University of Arkansas
Arkansas

Andrew Sharpley

Andrew Sharpley
University of Arkansas
Arkansas

Laura Christianson
Laura Christianson
University of Illinois
Illinois

Paul Davidson

Paul Davidson
University of Illinois
Illinois

Otto C. Doering III

Otto C. Doering III
Purdue University
Indiana

Jane Frankenberger

Jane Frankenberger
Purdue University
Indiana

Catherine Kling

Catherine Kling
Iowa State University
Iowa

Matt Helmers

Matt Helmers
Iowa State University
Iowa

Elisa M. Dangelo

Elisa M. Dangelo
University of Kentucky
Kentucky

Amber Gumbert

Amanda Gumbert
University of Kentucky
Kentucky

Brad Lee

Brad D. Lee
University of Kentucky
Kentucky

Vinicius Moreira

Vinicius Moreira
Louisiana State University
Louisiana

John V. Westra

John V. Westra
Louisiana State University
Louisiana

Fabián Fernández

Fabian Fernandez
University of Minnesota
Minnesota

Michael Schmitt

Michael Schmitt
University of Minnesota
Minnesota

Loren W. Burger

Loren W. (Wes) Burger
Mississippi State University
Mississippi

J. Larry Oldham

J. Larry Oldham
Mississippi State University
Mississippi

 

Dan Downing

Dan Downing
University of Missouri
Missouri

Joe Bonnell

Joe Bonnell
The Ohio State University
Ohio

Andy Ward

Andy Ward
The Ohio State University
Ohio

Forbes R. Walker

Forbes R. Walker
University of Tennessee
Tennessee

Jason A. Hubbart, Ph.D.

Jason A. Hubbart, Ph.D.
West Virginia University
West Virginia

Kenneth Genskow

Ken Genskow
University of Wisconsin
Wisconsin

Rebecca Power

Rebecca Power
University of Wisconsin
Wisconsin