Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Sediment prediction tools off the mark

31.01.2008
A recent study led by Smithsonian ecologist Kathy Boomer suggests it is time for a change in at least one area of watershed management.

Boomer has been examining the tools scientists and managers use to predict how much sediment runs into the Chesapeake Bay, and by her account, they are way off the mark. The study, co-authored by SERC ecological modeler Donald Weller and ecologist Thomas Jordan, appears in the January/February issue of the Journal of Environmental Quality.

Sediment running into the bay reduces light, suffocates underwater organisms and is a significant source of phosphorous, a nutrient that essentially fertilizes the water promoting algal blooms and many other problems in the bay.

“Cities and counties are under increasing pressure to meet total maximum daily loads set by state and federal agencies and to understand where sediments come from,” she said. “So we tested the tools most widely used now to predict sediment delivery.”

Her work has led to a new tactic. “We’re moving away from focusing on upland erosion and looking more at what happens near streams and in streams during events with high levels of stream sediments.”

The new study compared actual measurement of sediments in more than 100 streams in the Chesapeake watershed with predictions from several of the most up-to-date models. All the models failed completely to identify streams with high sediment levels.

“There was no correlation at all between the model predictions and the measurements,” said Boomer. The study is among the first to directly compare predictions of the widely used models with actual observations of sediments in a large number of streams.

The problem, she said, is that the most widely used models all begin with the same tool, the Universal Sediment Loss Equation. The USLE estimates erosion from five factors: topography, soil erodibility, annual average rainfall amount and intensity, land cover, and land management practices. Boomer emphasized that the USLE was developed to help farmers limit topsoil loss from individual fields rather than to predict sediment delivery from complex watersheds to streams.

As often applied, the USLE gives an average annual erosion rate for the whole watershed draining into a stream. But not all of the eroded soil makes it into the water, so the estimates do not translate directly into sediment delivery rates. To account for the discrepancy, different models incorporate a wide variety of adjustments. According to Boomer, the adjusted models still do not work, partly because erosion rate is not the best information to start with.

During the study, Boomer and colleagues Weller and Jordan compared erosion rates and sediment yields estimated from regional application of the USLE, the automated Revised-USLE, and five widely used sediment delivery ratio algorithms to measured annual average sediment delivery in 78 catchments of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

“We did the same comparisons for an independent set of 23 watersheds monitored by the U.S. Geological Society,” Boomer said.

Sediment delivery predictions, which were highly correlated with USLE erosion predictions, exceeded observed sediment yields by more than 100 percent. The RUSLE2 erosion estimates also were highly correlated with the USLE predictions, indicating that the method of implementing the USLE model did not greatly change the results.

“Sediment delivery is largely associated with specific rain events and stream bank erosion,” she said. “So, USLE-based models that emphasize long-term annual average erosion from uplands provide limited information to land managers.”

With a new focus on what is happening in and near the streams themselves, Boomer and her colleagues hope to develop more reliable tools to predict sediment running into Chesapeake Bay—tools that can be used in other lakes and estuaries as well.

Kimbra Cutlip | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.si.edu

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Upcycling 'fast fashion' to reduce waste and pollution
03.04.2017 | American Chemical Society

nachricht Litter is present throughout the world’s oceans: 1,220 species affected
27.03.2017 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Scientist invents way to trigger artificial photosynthesis to clean air

26.04.2017 | Materials Sciences

Ammonium nitrogen input increases the synthesis of anticarcinogenic compounds in broccoli

26.04.2017 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

SwRI-led team discovers lull in Mars' giant impact history

26.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>