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Soil Science Society of America Journal Abstract -

Enrichment of Transported Sediments with Organic Carbon, Nutrients, and Clay1


This article in SSSAJ

  1. Vol. 48 No. 2, p. 259-266

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  1. Yoram Avnimelech and
  2. J. R. McHenry2



Much of the nutrient inflow into impoundments is the result of erosion of soil particles on the watershed, together with adsorbed nutrients and their movement from the upland watershed soils. As the detached particles move downstream, they undergo selective size segregation and the nutrients are subject to selective desorption and adsorption between the particles and the water. During transport an enrichment of clay sized particles within the system occurs as well as that of P, N, and organic C. The ratio of the concentration of any given component in the eroded material system to that in the contributing soils is defined as the enrichment ratio. The selectivity of the erosional and sediment delivery processes involved in the transfer of eroded materials from watersheds to lakes or reservoirs is assumed to be proportional to the time, or distance, of travel. This study compares the composition of the eroded material at the onset and at the termination of the erosion, or sedimentation, cycle. From this information insight into the mechanisms affecting the compositional changes along the erosional route may be obtained. Organic carbon, total nitrogen, and total phosphorus concentrations and clay contents in sediments from 41 impoundments or lakes were compared with the equivalent parameters in the soils of the contributing watersheds. The enrichment ratio of a given component (S/So, the concentration of the component in the eroded material divided by its concentration in the soil) was theoretically predicted to be: S/So = 1/So × L, where L is a limiting value representing a stable level of this component in the erosion sequence. The measured enrichment ratios for organic C and total N were in good agreement with the theoretical model, the stable levels being 24 and 1.7 g kg−1 for organic C and total N. No such agreement was found for P and clay enrichment ratios, possibly due to the effect of the variable flow conditions on the selective erosion of these components.

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