Using the colour of recent overbank sediment deposits in two large catchments to determine sediment sources for targeting mitigation of catchment-specific management issues

A - Papers appearing in refereed journals

Pulley, S. and Collins, A. L. 2023. Using the colour of recent overbank sediment deposits in two large catchments to determine sediment sources for targeting mitigation of catchment-specific management issues. Journal of Environmental Management. 336, p. 117657.

AuthorsPulley, S. and Collins, A. L.

The effective management of sediment losses in large river systems is essential for maintaining the water resources and ecosystem services they provide. However, budgetary, and logistical constraints often mean that the understanding of catchment sediment dynamics necessary to deliver targeted management is unavailable. This study trials the collection of accessible recently deposited overbank sediment and the measurement of its colour using an office document scanner to identify the evolution of sediment sources rapidly and inexpensively in two large river catchments in the UK. The River Wye catchment has experienced significant clean-up costs associated with post-flood fine sediment deposits in both rural and urban areas. In the River South Tyne, fine sand is fouling potable water extraction and fine silts degrade salmonid spawning habitats. In both catchments, samples of recently deposited overbank sediment were collected, fractionated to either <25 μm or 63-250 μm, and treated with hydrogen peroxide to remove organic matter before colour measurement. In the River Wye catchment, an increased contribution from sources over the geological units present in a downstream direction was identified and was attributed to an increasing proportion of arable land. Numerous tributaries draining different geologies allowed for overbank sediment to characterise material on this basis. In the River South Tyne catchment, a downstream change in sediment source was initially found. The River East Allen was identified as a representative and practical tributary sub-catchment for further investigation. The collection of samples of channel bank material and topsoils therein allowed channel banks to be identified as the dominant sediment source with an increasing but small contribution from topsoils in a downstream direction. In both study catchments, the colour of overbank sediments could quickly and inexpensively inform the improved targeting of catchment management measures.

KeywordsSediment fingerprinting; Erosion; Flood deposits; Catchment management; Large catchment
Year of Publication2023
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Journal citation336, p. 117657
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Web address (URL)
Open accessPublished as ‘gold’ (paid) open access
FunderNatural Environment Research Council
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Funder project or codeNE/V007262/1 UKRI-NERC (UK Research and Innovation-Natural Environment Research Council) Urgency grant award
S2N - Soil to Nutrition - Work package 3 (WP3) - Sustainable intensification - optimisation at multiple scales
Publisher's version
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online04 Mar 2023
Publication process dates
Accepted01 Mar 2023
PublisherAcademic Press Ltd- Elsevier Science Ltd

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