Main content area

Exploring the potential for using 210Pbex measurements within a re-sampling approach to document recent changes in soil redistribution rates within a small catchment in southern Italy

Porto, Paolo, Walling, Desmond E., Cogliandro, Vanessa, Callegari, Giovanni
Journal of environmental radioactivity 2016
cesium, climate change, forested watersheds, half life, inventories, land use change, radionuclides, rain, sediment yield, sediments, soil erosion, soil profiles, Italy
In recent years, the fallout radionuclides caesium-137 (137Cs) and unsupported lead-210 (210Pbex) have been successfully used to document rates of soil erosion in many areas of the world, as an alternative to conventional measurements. By virtue of their different half-lives, these two radionuclides are capable of providing information related to different time windows. 137Cs measurements are commonly used to generate information on mean annual erosion rates over the past ca. 50–60 years, whereas 210Pbex measurements are able to provide information relating to a longer period of up to ca. 100 years. However, the time-integrated nature of the estimates of soil redistribution provided by 137Cs and 210Pbex measurements can be seen as a limitation, particularly when viewed in the context of global change and interest in the response of soil redistribution rates to contemporary climate change and land use change. Re-sampling techniques used with these two fallout radionuclides potentially provide a basis for providing information on recent changes in soil redistribution rates. By virtue of the effectively continuous fallout input, of 210Pb, the response of the 210Pbex inventory of a soil profile to changing soil redistribution rates and thus its potential for use with the re-sampling approach differs from that of 137Cs. Its greater sensitivity to recent changes in soil redistribution rates suggests that 210Pbex may have advantages over 137Cs for use in the re-sampling approach. The potential for using 210Pbex measurements in re-sampling studies is explored further in this contribution. Attention focuses on a small (1.38 ha) forested catchment in southern Italy. The catchment was originally sampled for 210Pbex measurements in 2001 and equivalent samples were collected from points very close to the original sampling points again in 2013. This made it possible to compare the estimates of mean annual erosion related to two different time windows. This comparison suggests that mean annual rates of net soil loss had increased during the period between the two sampling campaigns and that this increase was associated with a shift to an increased sediment delivery ratio. This change was consistent with independent information on likely changes in the sediment response of the study catchment provided by the available records of annual sediment yield and changes in the annual rainfall documented for the local area.