The flux of fine sediment within agricultural watersheds is an important factor determining the environmental quality of streams and rivers. Despite this importance, the contributions of sediment sources to suspended sediment loads within intensively managed agricultural watersheds remain poorly understood. This study assesses the provenance of fine suspended sediment in the headwater portion of a river flowing through an agricultural landscape in Illinois. Sediment source samples were collected from five potential sources: streambanks, forested floodplain, grassland, and grazed floodplains. Event-based and aggregated suspended sediment samples were collected from the stream at the watershed outlet. Quantitative geochemical fingerprinting techniques and a mixing model were employed to estimate the relative contributions of sediment from five potential sources to the suspended sediment loads. Organic matter content, trace elements, and fallout radionuclides were used as potential tracers. Principal Component analysis was employed to complement the results and Monte Carlo random sampling routine was used to test the uncertainty in estimated contributions of sources to in-stream sediment loads. Results indicate that the majority of suspended sediment is derived from streambanks and grazed floodplains. Erosion of the floodplain both by surface runoff and by streambank erosion from lateral channel migration contributes to the production of fine sediment within the stream system. These results suggest that human activities, in this case grazing, have converted portions of floodplains, normally net depositional environments, into sources of fine sediments. Efforts to reduce fluxes of fine sediment in this intensively managed landscape should focus on degraded floodplain surfaces and eroding channel banks within heavily grazed reaches of the stream.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Title of host publication||Scientific Program - AGU 2017 Fall Meeting|
|State||Published - 2017|