Improving soil erosion assessment in Swiss mountainous areas using radionuclides (137Cs, 239+240Pu)
Third-party funded project
Project title Improving soil erosion assessment in Swiss mountainous areas using radionuclides (137Cs, 239+240Pu)
Principal Investigator(s) Alewell, Christine
Co-Investigator(s) Mabit, Lionel
Project Members Arata, Laura
Tresch, Simon
Organisation / Research unit Departement Umweltwissenschaften / Umweltgeowissenschaften (Alewell)
Project start 01.10.2013
Probable end 30.09.2017
Status Completed
Abstract

The combined pressure of land use and climate change has resulted in accelerated soil erosion rates in Alpine grasslands. To efficiently mitigate and control soil losses by erosion and reduce their environmental impacts in Alpine grasslands, reliable and validated methods for comprehensive data generation on the magnitude and spatial extent of soil erosion are needed. Sheet erosion, which is one of the main forms of erosion affecting Swiss Alpine grasslands, is particularly difficult to investigate with conventional methods. While the use of the fallout radionuclide 137Cs has been successfully used to determine sheet erosion rates in lowland arable areas, the method was found to produce relatively large uncertainties in Alpine grasslands. The latter difficulties were most likely caused by a combination of (i) the general heterogeneous distribution of atmospheric 137Cs Chernobyl fallout, (ii) the partly snow covered ground in Alpine areas during the fallout event in April 1986, which results in inhomogeneous 137Cs distribution during snow melt and (iii) uncertainties in finding undisturbed references sites in the geomorphological and anthropogenic highly active slopes of the Swiss central Alps. We will implement an innovative combined use of radionuclide soil tracers (the 137Cs re-sampling approach and 239+240Pu based erosion rates) in the alpine valleys of Ursern (Canton Uri, northern central Alps) and Piora (Canton Ticino, southern central Alps) to overcome these difficulties. We will replace the classical 137Cs approach, where an undisturbed reference site is compared to erosional sites, with a re-sampling approach, where previous measurements from 2007 will be compared to 2013 sampling, thus using temporal instead of spatial reference. Using 239+240Pu which originates from nuclear bomb testing during the 1950’s and 1960’s as an erosional tracer is an approach only recently suggested to the soil science community. With the proposed concepts of combining 239+240Pu based erosion rates (averaging over the last 50 – 60 years, more homogeneous fallout distribution) with the 137Cs re-sampling approach (which allows short term erosion assessment integrating the last 6 years erosive events with no dependence on undisturbed reference sites) we are confident to overcome the above discussed limitation already encountered with the classical 137Cs approach in the Swiss Alps. Assessing soil erosion magnitude in Swiss mountainous areas through radionuclide methods is not only a first step towards an efficient resource management policy to target a successful implementation of agricultural soil conservation practices but also to validate existing soil erosion models which is in urgent need to up-scale and regionalize soil erosion rates in mountain areas.

Keywords soil erosion, fallout radionuclides, radiogenic isotopes, 239+240Plutonium, 137Caesium, alpine grasslands
Financed by Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF)

Published results ()

  ID Autor(en) Titel ISSN / ISBN Erschienen in Art der Publikation
3641300  Arata, L.; Meusburger, K.; Frenkel, E.; A’Campo-Neuen, A.; Iurian, A. -R.; Ketterer, M. E.; Mabit, L.; Alewell, C.  Modelling Deposition and Erosion rates with RadioNuclides (MODERN) – Part 1: A new conversion model to derive soil redistribution rates from inventories of fallout radionuclides.  0265-931X ; 1879-1700  Journal of Environmental Radioactivity  Publication: JournalArticle (Originalarbeit in einer wissenschaftlichen Zeitschrift) 
3641309  Arata, L.; Alewell, C.; Frenkel, E.; A’Campo-Neuen, A.; Iurian, A. -R.; Ketterer, M. E.; Mabit, L.; Meusburger, K.  Modelling Deposition and Erosion rates with RadioNuclides (MODERN) – Part 2: A comparison of different models to convert 239+240Pu inventories into soil redistribution rates at unploughed sites  0265-931X ; 1879-1700  Journal of Environmental Radioactivity  Publication: JournalArticle (Originalarbeit in einer wissenschaftlichen Zeitschrift) 
4220957  Arata, Laura; Meusburger, Katrin; Bürge, Alexandra; Zehringer, Markus; Ketterer, Michael E.; Mabit, Lionel; Alewell, Christine  Decision support for the selection of reference sites using 137Cs as a soil erosion tracer  2199-3971 ; 2199-398X  SOIL  Publication: JournalArticle (Originalarbeit in einer wissenschaftlichen Zeitschrift) 
4221007  Arata, Laura; Meusburger, Katrin; Frenkel, Elena; A'Campo-Neuen, Annette; Iurian, Andra-Rada; Ketterer, Michael E.; Mabit, Lionel; Alewell, Christine  Unique Conversion Model for Assessing Soil Redistribution Magnitudes from Fallout Radionuclides Inventories: MODERN  1011-2650  Soils Newsletter  Publication: JournalArticle (Originalarbeit in einer wissenschaftlichen Zeitschrift) 
4499336  Meusburger, Katrin; Porto, Paolo; Mabit, Lionel; La Spada, Carmelo; Arata, Laura; Alewell, Christine  Excess Lead-210 and Plutonium-239+240: Two suitable radiogenic soil erosion tracers for mountain grassland sites  0013-9351 ; 1096-0953  Environmental Research  Publication: JournalArticle (Originalarbeit in einer wissenschaftlichen Zeitschrift) 

Cooperations ()

  ID Kreditinhaber Kooperationspartner Institution Laufzeit - von Laufzeit - bis
2365905  Alewell, Christine  Dr. Lionel Mabit  International Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna  20.12.2006  31.12.2018 
983672  Alewell, Christine  Egli, Markus, Prof. Dr.  University of Zürich  31.10.2010  31.12.2013 
983626  Alewell, Christine  Ketterer, Michael, Prof. Dr.  Metropolitan State University of Denver  01.11.2011  31.12.2015 
   

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