The Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP) is a multi-agency effort, led by USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), to quantify the environmental effects of conservation practices and programs and develop the science base for managing the agricultural landscape for environmental quality.
CEAP findings are used to guide USDA conservation policy and program development and help conservationists, farmers, and ranchers make more informed conservation decisions. Assessments in CEAP in the Great Lakes region are carried out at regional and watershed scales on cropland, wetlands, and for wildlife.
The National Cropland Assessment established a survey and modeling based methodology to study the impacts of cultivated cropland practices on water quality, water management, and soil quality at the large scale. In the Western Lake Erie Basin (WLEB), the regional assessment has been performed on a five-year cycle. In the CEAP Watersheds Assessments, researchers use combined monitoring and modeling approaches to analyze water quality, availability, and soil health effects of conservation practices. This is done on a small watershed scale for water quality and for fields within. There are three active CEAP Watersheds within or adjacent to the WLEB, including one new project initiated in 2018 in Ohio. Peer-reviewed papers on selected watersheds in the WLEB are also prepared under the program. A recent assessment on the effects of cropland conservation practices on fish communities in streams within watersheds of the WLEB was also completed in partnership with The Nature Conservancy.