Various sediment properties previously have been investigated for the purpose of determining sources of suspended sediment. A remaining research need is an assessment of element ratios for the determination of suspended-sediment sources in different terrestrial environments. In this study, 253 element ratios were assessed to determine which, if any, were potentially useful for sediment-source determinations in six small agricultural basins in northeastern Kansas, USA. Samples of surface soils (cropland and grassland), channel banks, and reservoir bottom sediments were collected, analyzed for 23 elements, and compared. Of the 253 element ratios assessed, only the Co/Pb and Co/Zn ratios were substantially and consistently different between the channel banks and surface soils for all six basins. For three of four reservoirs for which data were available, sediment-source estimates provided by Co/Pb ratios were in agreement with estimates previously provided using 137Cs. For two of the four reservoirs, sediment-source estimates provided by Co/Zn ratios were consistent with the 137Cs estimates. Thus, the Co/Pb ratio potentially may be more useful. Additional research is needed to ascertain whether or not the use of Co/Pb and Co/Zn ratios as tracers is widely applicable or restricted to specific terrestrial environments.
Additional publication details
An investigation of element ratios for assessing suspended-sediment sources in small agricultural basins