Suitability of 239+240Pu and 137Cs as tracers for soil erosion assessment in mountain grassland

Alewell, Christine and Meusburger, Katrin and Juretzko, Gregor and Mabit, Lionel and Ketterer, Michael E.. (2014) Suitability of 239+240Pu and 137Cs as tracers for soil erosion assessment in mountain grassland. Chemosphere, 103, S. 274–280.

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Official URL: http://edoc.unibas.ch/dok/A6212407

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Anthropogenic radionuclides have been distributed globally due to nuclear weapons testing, nuclear accidents, nuclear weapons fabrication, and nuclear fuel reprocessing. While the negative consequences of this radioactive contamination are self-evident, the ubiquitous fallout radionuclides (FRNs) distribution form the basis for the use as tracers in ecological studies, namely for soil erosion assessment. Soil erosion is a major threat to mountain ecosystems worldwide. We compare the suitability of the anthropogenic FRNs, 137Cs and 239+240Pu as soil erosion tracers in two alpine valleys of Switzerland (Urseren Valley, Canton Uri, Central Swiss Alps and Val Piora, Ticino, Southern Alps). We sampled reference and potentially erosive sites in transects along both valleys. 137Cs measurements of soil samples were performed with a Li-drifted Germanium detector and 239+240Pu with ICP-MS. Our data indicates a heterogeneous deposition of the 137Cs, since most of the fallout origins from the Chernobyl April/May 1986 accident, when large parts of the European Alps were still snow-covered. In contrast, 239+240Pu fallout originated mainly from 1950s to 1960s atmospheric nuclear weapons tests, resulting in a more homogenous distribution and thus seems to be a more suitable tracer in mountainous grasslands. Soil erosion assessment using 239+240Pu as a tracer pointed to a huge dynamic and high heterogeneity of erosive processes (between sedimentation of 1.9 and 7 t ha−1 yr−1 and erosion of 0.2–16.4 t ha−1 yr−1 in the Urseren Valley and sedimentation of 0.4–20.3 t ha−1 yr−1 and erosion of 0.1–16.4 t ha−1 yr−1 at Val Piora). Our study represents a novel and successful application of 239+240Pu as a tracer of soil erosion in a mountain environment.
Faculties and Departments:05 Faculty of Science > Departement Umweltwissenschaften > Geowissenschaften > Umweltgeowissenschaften (Alewell)
UniBasel Contributors:Meusburger, Katrin and Juretzko, Gregor and Alewell, Christine
Item Type:Article, refereed
Article Subtype:Research Article
Note:Publication type according to Uni Basel Research Database: Journal article
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Last Modified:20 Jun 2014 07:56
Deposited On:20 Jun 2014 07:56

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