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USE OF CESIUM137 AS A TRACER IN THE STUDY OF RATES AND PATTERNS OF FLOODPLAIN SEDIMENTATION

USE OF CESIUM137 AS A TRACER IN THE STUDY OF RATES AND PATTERNS OF FLOODPLAIN SEDIMENTATION,D. E. WALLING,Q. HE

USE OF CESIUM137 AS A TRACER IN THE STUDY OF RATES AND PATTERNS OF FLOODPLAIN SEDIMENTATION   (Citations: 7)
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Rates and patterns of contemporary floodplain sedimentation have proved difficult to document using conventional monitoring tech­ niques due to both operational and spatial sampling constraints. The use of fallout radionuclide tracers, particularly 137Cs, offers an alternative approach to investigating floodplain sedimentation. The 137Cs content of floodplain sediments reflects two primary sources; firstly atmospheric fall­ out to the floodplain surface and, secondly, the deposition of sediment- associated 137Cs during flood events. By analyzing either the depth distri­ bution of 137Cs or the total 137Cs inventory of sediment cores, it is possible to derive estimates of average deposition rates over the past 35 years. Spatial variation of the grain size composition of deposited sediment must, however, also be considered when interpreting inventory data. This paper describes a procedure for deriving estimates of sedimentation rates for individual points on the floodplain based on measurements of the total 137Cs inventory and the 137Cs content of surface sediment. The resultant data can be used to study the spatial pattern of sedimentation within a flood- plain reach. A case study of a short reach of the floodplain of the River Culm in Devon, UK, is used to demonstrate the approach. Average sedi­ mentation rates in the range 0.06-0.60 g cm"2 year"1 have been documented.
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