Rare Earth Elements as a Tracer to Understand Sediment Fate and Transport in Small Streams
Kreider, Tyler A.
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Sediment is a major source of water quality impairment in streams, rivers and lakes in the US. However, sediment fate and transport in small streams is poorly understood. Previous attempts to characterize sediment transport often insufficiently represented the physical and chemical sediment properties and lacked spatial and/or temporal resolution. Therefore, there is a need to develop better sediment tracers, for which rare earth element (REE)-labeled sediment is examined as an alternative. The objectives of this study were to: 1) assess the adsorption of REEs to natural soils and ensure their reliability as a tracer in a fluvial environment; and 2) evaluate the efficacy of utilizing REE-labeled sediment to quantify fate and transport in a second-order stream during a series of storm events. Two natural stream bank soils from Stroubles Creek in Virginia were labeled with the REEs lanthanum and ytterbium. The REEs adsorbed equally to both soils and had minimal desorption after several washes with stream water. This suggests that REEs form a dependable natural sediment tracer and sufficiently label natural soils for use in a sediment tracing study. During two storm events, two unique REE tracers were injected into Stroubles Creek. These tracers were detected at varying discharges and sediment loads in bed and suspended sediment samples up to 875 m downstream. REE tracers proved to be an ideal tracer for detecting sediment fate and transport in a small stream during a series of storm events and hold great potential for evaluating best management practices and sediment transport models.
- Masters Theses