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Investigating source areas of eroded sediments transported in concentrated overland flow using rare earth element tracers.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date15/06/2008
JournalCATENA
Journal number1
Volume74
Number of pages6
Pages31-36
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Rare earth element oxides (REOs) have excellent potential for use as tracers in erosion studies. Using laboratory and field experiments we aimed to develop and test a simple application method for spreading REOs and to use REOs to determine the source of sediment to concentrated overland flow paths. Tracks left by farm machinery (tramlines) in fields act as concentrated flow paths, delivering a large amount of surface runoff and entrained sediment to the field boundary however little is known regarding where this sediment is sourced from. Two field experiments were conducted to investigate this, one looking at whether sediment is entrained from different points along the length of the tramline and one looking at the area over which sediment is entrained from either side of a tramline. Results from leaching tests and rainfall simulations clearly demonstrated the potential of this method for tracing sediment, there was very little movement of REOs through the soil profile and they were transported with sediment in overland flow. In the field experiment a large proportion of the sediment transported in the tramline originated within the first metre either side of it. However, the total area over which eroded sediment collects and flows into the tramline is potentially large with small amounts of sediment eroded from the between four and six metres being transported in the tramline. REOs have an excellent potential for use as a tracer of soil erosion. They provide a quick and cheap method of identifying sources of eroded sediments and have good potential for use in determining erosion rates.