Building on the older Agricultural Ecology Program (AEP), the AEEP will continue to focus on identifying, quantifying, and assessing the relative importance of the sources and sinks of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and sediment in the Upper Susquehanna River basin with particular emphasis on N fluxes.
Additionally, the exponential increase in the production of biofuels and use of agricultural lands for biofuel production over the past few years (Howarth & Bringezu 2009) and the recent NYS proposal to open large parts of the State, including the Upper Susquehanna River basin, to shale gas development (NY DEC 2009) may mean marked biogeochemical and physical changes to the rural landscape and ground and surface water quality; it simply is not possible to evaluate the sources and sinks of nutrients and sediments in the upper basin and to develop improved approaches for reducing these inputs without considering the effects of these new trends. Although our primary focus will remain on water quality, we believe it important to also consider the interacting effects of energy and agriculture on emissions of greenhouse gases. Optimum management of the rural environment demands a holistic approach that broadly considers environmental consequences.
The project will also assist resource managers in reducing the NYS contribution to Chesapeake Bay nutrient loading. President Obama issued an executive order on May 12, 2009, calling Chesapeake Bay a “national treasure” and greatly increasing the commitment of the federal government to reducing nutrient pollution in the Bay (Obama 2009). Simultaneously, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that they would move immediately toward implementing enforceable TMDLs (total maximum daily load standards) for N and P inputs to the Bay and NYS, the EPA, and the Chesapeake Bay Program are now moving aggressively forward with development of the Bay's first mandatory TMDLs, which will likely be enforced next year. AEEP research will help evaluate these targets and provide a research base for guidance on how to best meet and revise them in the future.