Use of rare earth oxides as tracers to identify sediment source areas for agricultural hillslopes
- Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University, Lancaster, LA1 4YQ, UK
Abstract. Understanding sediment sources is essential to enable more effective targeting of in-field mitigation approaches to reduce diffuse pollution from agricultural land. In this paper we report on the application of rare earth element oxides to arable soils at hillslope scale in order to determine sediment source areas and their relative importance, using a non-intrusive method of surface spraying. Runoff, sediments and rare earth elements lost from four arable hillslope lengths at a site in the UK with clay soils were monitored from three rainfall events after tracer application. Measured erosion rates were low, reflecting the typical event conditions occurring at the site, and less than 1% of the applied REO tracers were recovered, which is consistent with the results of comparable studies. Tracer recovery at the base of the hillslope was able to indicate the relative importance of different hillslope sediment source areas, which were found to be consistent between events. The principal source of eroded sediments was the upslope area, implying that the wheel tracks were principally conduits for sediment transport, and not highly active sites of erosion. Mitigation treatments for sediment losses from arable hillslopes should therefore focus on methodologies for trapping mobile sediments within wheel track areas through increasing surface roughness or reducing the connectivity of sediment transport processes.