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Using cosmogenic beryllium–7 as a tracer in sediment budget investigations

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Recent advances in the use of the environmental radionuclides caesium–137 and unsupported lead–210 to quantify medium– and longer–term rates of erosion and sediment accumulation have proved of considerable value in catchment sediment budget investigations. However, there remains a need to explore the potential for using other shorter–lived radionuclides to provide evidence of sediment mobilisation, transport and storage over shorter timescales and particularly for individual events. This contribution reports the results of a study aimed at exploring the potential for using beryllium–7 (7Be, t½= 53.3 days) to meet this requirement. The study investigated the use of 7Be as a sediment tracer in three key components of the sediment budget, namely, soil erosion and sediment mobilisation from slopes, the transport, storage and remobilisation of fine sediment in river channels and overbank deposition on river floodplains. The results presented clearly demonstrate the potential for using 7Be to obtain information on short–term and event–based sediment redistribution rates for use in catchment sediment budget investigations.
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Keywords: beryllium–7; channel storage; environmental radioactivity; floodplain sedimentation; sediment budget; sediment tracers; soil erosion

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: University of Exeter and University of Wales Swansea, 2: University of Exeter

Publication date: 2002-08-01

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