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Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center


Stream Sediment Sources in Midwest Agricultural Basins with Land Retirement along Channel

Williamson, T.N., Christensen, V.G., Richardson, W.G., Frey, J.W., Gellis, A.C., Kieta, K.A., Fitzpatrick, F.A., 2014, Stream Sediment Sources in Midwest Agricultural Basins with Land Retirement along Channel. Journal of Environmental Quality, v 43, p 1624-2634, doi:10.2134/jeq2013.12.0521


Documenting the effects of agricultural land retirement on stream-sediment sources is critical to identifying management practices that improve water quality and aquatic habitat. Particularly difficult to quantify are the effects from conservation easements that commonly are discontinuous along channelized streams and ditches throughout the agricultural midwestern United States. Our hypotheses were that sediment from cropland, retired land, stream banks, and roads would be discernible using isotopic and elemental concentrations and that source contributions would vary with land retirement distribution along tributaries of West Fork Beaver Creek in Minnesota. Channel-bed and suspended sediment were sampled at nine locations and compared with local source samples by using linear discriminant analysis and a four-source mixing model that evaluated seven tracers: In, P, total C, Be, Tl, Th, and Ti. The proportion of sediment sources differed significantly between suspended and channel-bed sediment. Retired land contributed to channel-bed sediment but was not discernible as a source of suspended sediment, suggesting that retired-land material was not mobilized during high-flow conditions. Stream banks were a large contributor to suspended sediment; however, the percentage of stream-bank sediment in the channel bed was lower in basins with more continuous retired land along the riparian corridor. Cropland sediments had the highest P concentrations; basins with the highest cropland-sediment contributions also had the highest P concentrations. Along stream reaches with retired land, there was a lower proportion of cropland material in suspended sediment relative to sites that had almost no land retirement, indicating less movement of nutrients and sediment from cropland to the channel as a result of land retirement.


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