In-channel alterations of soil properties used as tracers in sediment fingerprinting studies


García-Comendador J., Martínez-Carreras N., Fortesa J., Company J., Borràs A., Palacio E., Estrany J.


Catena, vol. 225, art. no. 107036, 2023


Soil properties used as tracers in sediment fingerprinting studies are assumed to remain stable or vary in a predictable way in their transfer from sources to sinks, allowing a comparison with suspended sediment properties. Attention to the conservative behaviour of soil properties has largely focused on the differences in the particle size and organic matter content between sources and target sediments. However, in-channel biochemical alterations are also known to occur, and their magnitude is still poorly understood. An experiment to investigate the in-channel variations of soil properties during transport and storage was carried out with the most common soil properties used as tracers in sediment fingerprinting studies (i.e. colour, fallout radionuclides and geochemical elements). Twenty-eight soil samples collected from different land uses were introduced into an intermittent stream channel of a small Mediterranean catchment. Samples were recovered at different time intervals over one year. The changes in soil properties (average coefficient of variation 8.1 ± 8.8 %) were generally lower than the spatial variability of each source within the catchment (average coefficient of variation 16.3 ± 18.5 %). No significant differences were observed between samples from different land use types or when recovered at different time intervals. Soil properties that showed higher in-channel coefficients of variation were S, 137Cs, 210Pbex, As, Mo and Na, with annual coefficients of variation > 19 %. Conversely, carbon (C) and colour properties were the most stable in time (average coefficient of variation 2.1 ± 0.4 % and 2.6 ± 2.2 %, respectively). The results presented will be informative with regard to performing future suspended sediment fingerprinting studies in Mediterranean catchments, providing a better understanding of which soil properties are more sensitive to in-channel biochemical alterations.



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