A rapid and inexpensive colour-based sediment tracing method incorporating hydrogen peroxide sample treatment as an alternative to quantitative source fingerprinting for catchment management

A - Papers appearing in refereed journals

Pulley, S. and Collins, A. L. 2022. A rapid and inexpensive colour-based sediment tracing method incorporating hydrogen peroxide sample treatment as an alternative to quantitative source fingerprinting for catchment management. Journal of Environmental Management. 311 (1 June), p. 114780. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2022.114780

AuthorsPulley, S. and Collins, A. L.

Accessible sediment provenance information is highly desirable for guiding targeted interventions for reducing excess diffuse agricultural sediment losses to water. Conventional sediment source fingerprinting methods can provide this information, but at high cost, thereby limiting their widespread application for catchment management. The use of sediment colour measured using an office document scanner represents an easy, fast, and inexpensive alternative method to trace sediment sources. However, the potential for poor source discrimination and its non-conservatism due to enrichment in sediment organic matter content during sediment transport represent possible limitations to its use. As such, the treatment of samples using hydrogen peroxide to remove organic matter can potentially improve source discrimination based upon geology or soil type, and the mapping of differences in colour between source and sediment samples removing the need for a priori source groups, were trialled in a new colour-based tracing framework. The River Avon in southwest England and Holbeck/Wath Beck in northeast England were studied as they have been identified as being of high priority for the targeting of on-farm advice delivered through a long-running agri-environment initiative. In both catchments, colour was effective at identifying that a small proportion of each which would be considered as being low erosion risk was the dominant source of the sampled sediment. This was due to poor connectivity between fields deemed to be at high risk of erosion and stream channels. The hydrogen peroxide sample treatment confirmed that sediment colour was not significantly altered by enrichment in organic matter content. This treatment and the mapped comparison between source and suspended sediment colour improved source discrimination allowing for the more spatially-refined identification of critical sediment source areas. It is argued that this new inexpensive procedure can potentially deliver more precise and reliable information to catchment managers than costly quantitative sediment source fingerprinting methods. This method can greatly increase the availability of catchment-specific sediment source data and therefore the robust targeting of management efforts on a national scale.

KeywordsSediment sources; Catchment management; Sediment fingerprinting
Year of Publication2022
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Journal citation311 (1 June), p. 114780
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2022.114780
Web address (URL)https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2022.114780
Open accessPublished as ‘gold’ (paid) open access
FunderBiotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Funder project or codeEnvironment Agency project 19936 (Catchment Sensitive Farming programme)
S2N - Soil to Nutrition - Work package 3 (WP3) - Sustainable intensification - optimisation at multiple scales
Publisher's version
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online10 Mar 2022
Print01 Jun 2022
Publication process dates
Accepted18 Feb 2022
PublisherAcademic Press Ltd- Elsevier Science Ltd

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