Increasing concern for problems of soil degradation and the off-site impacts of accelerated erosion has generated a need for improved methods of estimating rates and patterns of soil erosion by water. The use of environmental radionuclides, particularly 137Cs, to estimate erosion rates has attracted increased attention and the approach has been shown to possess several important advantages. However, the use of 137Cs measurements to estimate erosion rates introduces one important uncertainty, namely, the need to employ a conversion model or relationship to convert the measured reduction in the 137Cs inventory to an estimate of the erosion rate. There have been few attempts to validate these theoretical conversion models and the resulting erosion rate estimates. However, there is an important need for such validation, if the 137Cs approach is to be more widely applied and reliance is to be placed on the results obtained. This paper reports the results of a study aimed at validating the use of two theoretical conversion models, namely the exponential depth distribution model and the diffusion and migration model, that have been used in several recent studies to convert measurements of 137Cs inventories on uncultivated soils to estimates of soil erosion rates. The study is based on data assembled for two small catchments (138 and 165 ha) in Calabria, southern Italy, for which measurements of sediment output are available for the catchment outlet. The two catchments differ in terms of the steepness of their terrain, and this difference is reflected by their sediment yields. Because there is no evidence of significant deposition within the two catchments, sediment delivery ratios close to 10 can be assumed. It is therefore possible to make a direct comparison between the estimates of the mean annual erosion rates within the two catchments derived from 137Cs measurements and the measured sediment outputs. The results of the comparison show that the erosion rate estimates provided by both models are reasonably consistent with the measured sediment yields at the catchment outlets. However, more detailed assessment of the results shows that the validity of the erosion rate estimates is influenced by the magnitude of the erosion rates within the catchment. The exponential depth distribution model appears to perform better for the catchment with higher erosion rates and to overestimate erosion rates in the other catchment. Similarly, the basic migration and diffusion model performs better for the catchment with lower erosion rates and overestimates erosion rates in the other catchment. However, the improved migration and diffusion model appears to perform satisfactorily for both catchments. There is a need for further studies to extend such independent validation of the 137Cs technique to other environments, including cultivated soils, and to other conversion models and procedures.

Validating erosion rate estimates provided by caesium-137 measurements for two small forested catchments in Calabria, Southern Italy

PORTO, Paolo
;
2003

Abstract

Increasing concern for problems of soil degradation and the off-site impacts of accelerated erosion has generated a need for improved methods of estimating rates and patterns of soil erosion by water. The use of environmental radionuclides, particularly 137Cs, to estimate erosion rates has attracted increased attention and the approach has been shown to possess several important advantages. However, the use of 137Cs measurements to estimate erosion rates introduces one important uncertainty, namely, the need to employ a conversion model or relationship to convert the measured reduction in the 137Cs inventory to an estimate of the erosion rate. There have been few attempts to validate these theoretical conversion models and the resulting erosion rate estimates. However, there is an important need for such validation, if the 137Cs approach is to be more widely applied and reliance is to be placed on the results obtained. This paper reports the results of a study aimed at validating the use of two theoretical conversion models, namely the exponential depth distribution model and the diffusion and migration model, that have been used in several recent studies to convert measurements of 137Cs inventories on uncultivated soils to estimates of soil erosion rates. The study is based on data assembled for two small catchments (138 and 165 ha) in Calabria, southern Italy, for which measurements of sediment output are available for the catchment outlet. The two catchments differ in terms of the steepness of their terrain, and this difference is reflected by their sediment yields. Because there is no evidence of significant deposition within the two catchments, sediment delivery ratios close to 10 can be assumed. It is therefore possible to make a direct comparison between the estimates of the mean annual erosion rates within the two catchments derived from 137Cs measurements and the measured sediment outputs. The results of the comparison show that the erosion rate estimates provided by both models are reasonably consistent with the measured sediment yields at the catchment outlets. However, more detailed assessment of the results shows that the validity of the erosion rate estimates is influenced by the magnitude of the erosion rates within the catchment. The exponential depth distribution model appears to perform better for the catchment with higher erosion rates and to overestimate erosion rates in the other catchment. Similarly, the basic migration and diffusion model performs better for the catchment with lower erosion rates and overestimates erosion rates in the other catchment. However, the improved migration and diffusion model appears to perform satisfactorily for both catchments. There is a need for further studies to extend such independent validation of the 137Cs technique to other environments, including cultivated soils, and to other conversion models and procedures.
caesium-137; radionuclides; soil erosion; sediment yield; conversion models; erosion rates; Italy; validation
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/20.500.12318/3978
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