Preliminary study on the use of the 137 Cs method for soil erosion investigation in the pampean region of Argentina

A. BUJÁN, O.J. SANTANATOGLIA, C. CHAGAS, M. MASSOBRIO, M. CASTIGLIONI, M.S. YÁÑEZ, H. CIALLELLA, J. FERNÁNDEZ

Abstract


Soil erosion is the most important degradation process in A rgentine. According to the estimation of 4.9 millon ha in Pampa Ondulada Region, 1.600.000 ha (36% of agricultural soils) are affected by the erosion. Field measurements of soil erosion and sediment deposition using classical techniques are difficult, time consuming, and expensive but indispensable to feed the prediction models for conservation practices design and fa rm planning. Many authors have reported that the measurement of fallout nuclides is useful tool to characterize geomorphical processes. Walling and He proposes models for conve rting 137Cs depletion/enrichment amounts to net soil loss/deposition. These models are based in the comparison between a reference 137Cs profile in a long term undisturbed site (control site) and the 137Cs profiles in the suspected eroded or deposited sites in the landscape. The aim of this study is to provide a complete and well representative set of data on the erosion intensity in topographical conditions for the Pampa Ondulada Region in A rgentine by using a tracer technique. The study area is a small watershed (about 300 ha), located in Arroyo del Tala medium basin, within Partido of San Pedro in Buenos Aires Province, Argentine. This paper presents a group of results from a detailed investigation of erosion and sediment delivery, within a 49 ha cultivated field study site in this watershed. The base of sampling strategy is the grid approach. A reference inventory, representing the local fallout input, was searched for at a site experiencing neither erosion nor deposition. Radiocaesium analyses were made at the Nuclear Regulatory Authority Laboratory by a GE Hp detector. To make an interpretation of 137Cs distribution of soil losses and sedimentation, the Mass Balance Model 2 was used (Walling and He 1997). The erosion/deposition rates from Mass Balance Model 2 are in the range of 0 to -30 t·ha-1·y-1 for erosion, and 0 to 19 t·ha-1·y-1 for deposition, and these values matched well, with the rates of erosion obtained by classical methods. The 137Cs spatial and depth distribution are showed in a map, and enabled to study the relationship of the erosion to the topography, and a good discrimination in subclasses within moderate erosion class and sedimentation class.

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