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Determining sources of fine-grained sediment for a reach of the lower little bow river, Alberta, using a colour-based sediment fingerprinting approach

Liu, K., Lobb, D.A., Miller, J.J., Owens, P.N., Caron, M.E.G. (2017). Determining sources of fine-grained sediment for a reach of the lower little bow river, Alberta, using a colour-based sediment fingerprinting approach, 98(1), 55-69. http://dx.doi.org/10.1139/cjss-2016-0131

Abstract

© Her Majesty the Queen in right of Canada 2017. Identifying the predominant sources of sediment is a key requirement for soil erosion control within watersheds. A 4 yr study from 2009 to 2012 was conducted to apportion sediment sources in a subcatchment of the Lower Little Bow River watershed, AB, Canada. This study catchment lies along a 6 km reach of the river, having an upstream inlet and downstream outlet; as such, it represents the first application of the sediment fingerprinting technique in a reach setting. Six monitoring stations were established along this reach of river to collect sediments using passive time-integrated sediment samplers. Source material samples were collected throughout the study catchment. Reflectance spectra of source and sediment samples were determined using a diffuse reflectance spectrometer. Source materials were classified into five sources using canonical discriminant analysis. Following the normality test, analysis of variance and stepwise discriminant function analysis, four colour coefficients were selected and fitted to the Bayesian mixing model of stable isotope analysis in R. The results indicated that the unknown upstream sediment source was the single largest (37.4%) contributor of sediments, suggesting that there is sediment coming from a significant source or sources not represented within the study catchment. Irrigation return flow channels were the second largest contributor (25.6%), while the third largest contributor, agricultural land, had a minimal contribution (9.2%). Source contribution had a small spatial but large temporal variation. The results indicated that identifying the origin of secondary sediment sources of upstream and irrigation flow channels is a critical step for soil erosion control in the study subwatershed.

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