Prioritizing agricultural lands for conservation buffer placement using multiple criteria

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16 Scopus citations


Although conservation buffers are multifunctional, the current conservation buffer planning strategies tend to use a single criterion, most frequently a hydrological or soil condition indicator, to guide conservation buffer placement. This study presents a watershed planning approach that prioritizes agricultural lands for conservation buffers based on multiple selection criteria and applies the approach to Raritan Basin in central New Jersey. The multiple selection criteria include soil erodibility, hydrological sensitivity, wildlife habitat, and impervious surface rate. These criteria capture the conservation buffers' benefits in reducing soil erosion, controlling runoff generation, enhancing wildlife habitat, and mitigating stormwater impacts, respectively. An expert panel was used to identify and define the section criteria, review the measured values of those criteria, and develop the classification scales that assign the class score to each criterion. The prioritization is based on the summation of the criteria class scores. About one-third of agricultural lands are prioritized for conservation buffers in Raritan Basin. The total program cost of converting those prioritized agricultural lands to conservation buffers in Raritan Basin is estimated to be between $54.8 and 102.9 million depending on the composition of installed conservation buffer practices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)944-956
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of the American Water Resources Association
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Earth-Surface Processes


  • Conservation buffer placement
  • Hydrological sensitivity
  • Impervious surface
  • Multiple criteria decision making
  • Soil erodibility
  • Wildlife habitat


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