Streamside Management Zone effectiveness for protecting water quality following forestland application of biosolids

TR Number



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Virginia Tech


Biosolids, materials resulting from domestic sewage treatment, are surface applied to forest soils to increase nutrient availability. Retaining streamside management zones (SMZs) can limit nutrient pollution of streams. We delineated 15 m SMZs along three intermittent streams in an 18-year-old Pinus taeda L. plantation. We applied biosolids outside the SMZ on one side of each of the streams maintaining the other side of the stream as control. We collected water samples from the three treated and six reference streams as well as from the perennial stream both upstream and downstream from the intermittent streams for 12 months following treatment. Along transects perpendicular to the treated streams, we collected overland flow samples, soil solution samples at 60 cm and extracts from ion exchange membranes (IEMs) placed in the surface soil. We found elevated nitrate concentrations outside the SMZ in the treated side soil solution samples, in which concentrations remained below 1.5 mg L-1. Nutrient concentrations outside the SMZ in treated side IEM extracts increased following biosolids application, returning to near control levels after one year. Nutrient concentrations in IEM extracts were not elevated adjacent to the streams. We observed elevated phosphorus concentrations adjacent to the stream in overland flow during one period on the treated side of the stream. Stream nutrient concentrations showed few differences downstream from the treatment with concentrations below 1.5 mg L-1. Our results indicate that a 15 m SMZ protected streams from nutrient pollution for the first year following biosolids application to adjacent forestlands.



forest fertilization, Streamside Management Zone (SMZ), biosolids, loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.) plantation