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Title: Toward generalizable sediment fingerprinting with tracers that are conservative and nonconservative over sediment routing timescales
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Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Journal of Soils and Sediments
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
1479 to 1492
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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  1. Nuisance periphyton growth influences the aesthetics, recreation, and aquatic life of waterbodies. Partners Lake is a shallow spring-fed lake in the headwaters of the Illinois River Watershed in Cave Springs, Arkansas, that experiences nuisance growth of periphyton (i.e., Spirogyra spp.) each year. The ratio of dissolved nitrogen (N ~5.0 mg L-1) and phosphorus (P ~0.030 mg L-1) in the lake water (N:P≥288), as well as nutrient limitation assays, suggests that periphyton growth should be P-limited. While the water column lacks sufficient P to promote growth, the sediments have the ability to release P to the overlying water; P-flux ranged from 1.63 mg m-2 d-1 to over 10 mg m-2 d-1, reaching final concentrations of 0.08 to 0.34 mg L-1. However, soluble reactive phosphorus concentrations were consistently at or below 0.030 mg L-1, in the lake, suggesting that the periphyton were likely immobilizing P as quickly as it was released from the sediments. In the lab, maximal periphyton growth (~30 to 35 mg m-2) occurred in the 0.10 to 0.25 mg L-1 P treatments, over a 6 day incubation period. Similar levels of growth occurred when lake sediments were the P source, suggesting P released from the sediments is sufficient tomore »support nuisance algal growth. We need to begin managing the legacy P stored in the sediments, in addition to external P loads, because internal P can sustain nuisance periphyton biomass when N is not limiting.« less
  2. Abstract Purpose The equilibrium sediment exchange process is defined as instantaneous deposition of suspended sediment to the streambed countered by equal erosion of sediment from the streambed. Equilibrium exchange has rarely been included in sediment transport studies but is needed when the sediment continuum is used to investigate the earth’s critical zone. Materials and methods Numericalmodeling in the watershed uplands and streamcorridor simulates sediment yield and sediment source partitioning for the Upper South Elkhorn watershed in Kentucky, USA.We simulate equilibrium exchange when uplandderived sediment simultaneously deposits to the streambed while streambed sediments erode. Sediment fingerprinting with stable carbon isotopes allowed constraint of the process in a gently rolling watershed. Results and discussion Carbon isotopes work well to partition upland sediment versus streambed sediment because sediment deposited in the streambed accrues a unique autotrophic, i.e., algal, fingerprint. Stable nitrogen isotopes do not work well to partition the sources in this study because the nitrogen isotope fingerprint of algae falls in the middle of the nitrogen isotope fingerprint of upland sediment. The source of sediment depends on flow intensity for the gently rolling watershed. Streambed sediments dominate the fluvial load for low and moderate events, while upland sediments become increasingly important duringmore »high flows and extreme events.We used sediment fingerprinting results to calibrate the equilibrium sediment exchange rate in the watershed sediment transport model. Conclusions Our sediment fingerprinting and modeling evidence suggest equilibrium sediment exchange is a substantial process occurring in the system studied. The process does not change the sediment load or streambed sediment storage but does impact the quality of sediment residing in the streambed. Therefore, we suggest equilibrium sediment exchange should be considered when the sediment continuumis used to investigate the critical zone.We conclude the paper by outlining future research priorities for coupling sediment fingerprinting with watershed modeling.« less