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Farm Ditch is Home, Sweet Home, to Tiny Aquatic Species

Seasonal agricultural streams and flooded ditches, remnants of when the Willamette Valley was one big wetland, are full of aquatic life. Scientists at Oregon State University (OSU) ventured into farmers’ flooded fields in southern Williamette Valley and discovered that this biodiversity persists. They found a variety of crustaceans, snails, worms, aquatic insects, fish, and amphibians.

These findings and others gathered over a decade’s study challenged the popular assumption that agricultural streams and ditches are poor habitat.

The research offers guidance for farmers who want to maintain the health of these temporary waters by setting aside low areas of their fields that consistently flood and have low yields.

Among the key findings, streams and ditches with less watershed agricultural land-use contained more species of macroinvertebrates. Channels with the most watershed agricultural land-use lacked many of the aquatic insects found in less agriculturally influenced channels. Stream and ditch bottoms with grasses and other plants had more invertebrates than those with exposed clay bottoms.

The project was made possible with support from NIFA’s Partnership in Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP).

Want to read about more impacts like this? Check out Fresh from the Field, a weekly bulletin showcasing transformative impacts made by grantees funded by NIFA.

Farm Bill Priority Areas
Agriculture systems and technology;
Bioenergy, natural resources, and environment
U.S. States and Territories
Oregon
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