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Six-year monitoring of the vertical distribution of radiocesium in three forest soils after the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant accident

Takahashi, Junko, Onda, Yuichi, Hihara, Daichi, Tamura, Kenji
Journal of environmental radioactivity 2018 v.192 pp. 172-180
accidents, canopy, cesium, equations, forest litter, forest soils, mineral soils, mixed forests, monitoring, nuclear power, power plants, prediction, radioactivity, radionuclides, soil properties, spatial distribution, surveys, temporal variation
After the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant accident on March 2011, several studies showed that the downward migration of ¹³⁷Cs from litter to mineral soil is more rapid in forests in Fukushima than in forests affected by the Chernobyl accident. Therefore, the downward migration within mineral soil layers is more important for predicting long-term dynamics of ¹³⁷Cs in forest ecosystems in Fukushima. In the present study, we monitored the detailed vertical distribution of ¹³⁷Cs in litter and soil layers for 6 y (2011–2017) following the previous study (2011–2012), and found that temporal changes in those distributions were different among mixed forest (MF), mature cedar (MC) and young cedar (YC) forests. The ¹³⁷Cs concentrations and inventories in the litter layer exponentially decreased with time for all sites, with more than 80–95% of the deposited ¹³⁷Cs on the forest floor distributed in mineral soil layers by 2017. The percentage of ¹³⁷Cs inventory in the litter layer to the total ¹³⁷Cs inventory in litter and mineral soil layers was well fitted by a single exponential equation with decreasing rate of 0.22–0.44 y⁻¹. The slower migration was observed in the YC site, probably because of higher initial interception of ¹³⁷Cs fallout by dense canopy. As the downward migration from litter to mineral soil progressed, the ¹³⁷Cs concentration in the first few cm of mineral soil surface gradually increased and became higher than the ¹³⁷Cs concentration in the litter within 2–3 y of the accident. The ¹³⁷Cs concentration in mineral soil layers exponentially decreased with depth throughout survey period, and an exponential equation fitted well. The relaxation depth of ¹³⁷Cs concentration in mineral soil layers estimated by the exponential equation were constantly increasing in the MC and YC sites with 0.08 cm y⁻¹. In contrast, there was no temporal increase in the relaxation depth in the MF site, indicating little migration to subsurface soil layer from not only litter layer but also surface soil layer. Further studies are necessary to identify the forests prone to the downward migration of ¹³⁷Cs and its factors regarding both forest and soil characteristics.