The downslope transport of rare earth element-tagged soil particles remobilized during a spring thunderstorm was studied on both a natural prairie and an agricultural field in southwestern Iowa (U.S.A.). A technique was developed for tagging natural soils with the rare earth elements Eu, Tb, and Ho to ∼1000 ppm via coprecipitation with MnO2. Tagged material was replaced in target locations; surficial soil samples were collected following precipitation and runoff; and rare earth element concentrations were determined by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. Diffusion and exponential models were applied to the concentration-distance data to determine particle transport distances. The results indicate that the concentration-distance data are well described by the diffusion model, but the exponential model does not simulate the rapid drop-off in concentrations near the tagged source. Using the diffusion model, calculated particle transport distances at all hillside locations and at both the cultivated and natural prairie sites were short, ranging from 3 to 73 cm during this single runoff event. This study successfully demonstrates a new tool for studying soil erosion.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Environmental Chemistry