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Grains… Action! Tracking sediments from source to sink in semi-arid systems

The project aims to construct a comprehensive source-to-sink sediment-routing model constrained by sediment-mass-balance and water-balance models. We will use a pristine river system in the semi-arid, sparsely-vegetated Altiplano Basin (Bolivia) as our natural laboratory, from which we derive our input data, and which serves as a test case for our workflow as well as validation for the model output. Our ground-breaking multidisciplinary approach comprises: (1) real-time remote sensing-based monitoring of water discharge variability and floodplain flooding events with satellite gauging stations, SAR/GOES and microwave measurements, to be nested within a basin-scale water-balance model, (2) tracking of downstream displacement of individual synthetic grains with state-of-the-art RFID (radio-frequency identification) sensors, (3) application of a new algorithm for fast, non-destructive in-situ prediction of sediment properties using portable XRF scanning, (4) construction of a high-resolution DEM using dGPS measurements, and (5) modelling of changes in sediment composition and texture along the river path, with an emphasis on fractionation effects owing to selective transport and modifications to the particle assemblage by early diagenetic alterations. The project will yield a detailed understanding of source-to-sink sediment dispersal in semi-arid systems that can be applied to other modern systems for predictions of basin-fill architecture, but also to 'deep time' studies of basin fills whose feeder systems are no longer accessible.
Date:1 Oct 2019  →  Today
Keywords:Sediment tracking with micro-sensors, satellite monitoring, source-to-sink, early diagenesis, sediment generation, non-destructive monitoring
Disciplines:Soil ecology