Evaluating rare earth elements as tracers of fluvial processes: Fine sediment transport and deposition in a small stream


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Effective sediment management requires an understanding of the lag time between best management practice implementation and observable changes in the target water body. To improve our understanding of sediment lag times, we tested a method to label locally sourced sediments with rare earth elements to quantify fine sediment flow-through and storage in fluvial systems. We injected sediments labeled with lanthanum and ytterbium into a small stream during two artificial flood events. During the floods, we collected and quantified suspended sediments and sediment deposition in the stream channel and floodplain at four cross-sections within our study reach. Two down-gradient (90 m and 850 m) timeintegrated suspended sediment samplers evaluated total travel distance. Sediment tracer observations of particle transport distances ranged from 0 m to at least 850 m at a maximum flow rate of 55 L s-1 (stream 1.5 year flow was 515 L s-1). Sediment deposition per unit area was greater in the channel than in the floodplain. The majority of sediment tracer mass injected into the stream entered storage within the first 69 m of the reach. Some particles that deposited following the first flood were resuspended and either transported downstream or redeposited within the study reach. Our results support the further use of rare earth elements as sediment tracers to inform water quality and sediment transport models, and to provide estimates of lag times between management actions and downstream improvements.



sediment, rare earth elements, transport, deposition, small streams, Agricultural Engineering, Agriculture, Fine sediment, Flood, Fluvial geomorphology, Lag time, Large wood, Rare earth elements, Sediment deposition, Sediment transport, Tracer, SUSPENDED SEDIMENT, SCALE, FLOODPLAIN, NITROGEN, SYSTEMS, OXIDES, 07 Agricultural and Veterinary Sciences, 09 Engineering