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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Measuring Soil Redistribution in Semiarid Grass and Shrub Communities Using 137-Cesium

Authors
item Ritchie, Jerry
item Herrick, Jeffrey
item Ritchie, Carole - CONSULTANT

Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: February 10, 2003
Publication Date: April 1, 2003
Citation: Ritchie, J.C., Herrick, J.E., Ritchie, C. 2003. Measuring soil redistribution in semiarid grass and shrub communities using 137-cesium [abstract]. Montpellier 2003 Hydrology of Mediterranean and Semi Regions Conference. p. 33.

Technical Abstract: Soil redistribution across semiarid landscapes is often associated with changing vegetation patterns. Semiarid grasslands tend to have uniform patterns of soil properties while shrublands have nonuniform patterns of soil properties. In the 1950's and 1960's radioactive Cesium-137 was deposited uniformly across the landscape from atmospheric fallout from nuclear weapon tests. Once in contact with the soil, Cs-137 is rapidly and strongly adsorbed to soil particles and any redistribution is due to the physical movement of soil particles. Thus, by measuring Cs-137 redistribution across the landscape, soil redistribution can be estimated. Soil profiles were collected from grass (Black Grama and Tobosa) and shrub (Tarbush and Mesquite) sites at the USDA-ARS Jornada Experimental Range in the Northern Chihuahuan Desert in New Mexico USA. Concentrations of Cs-137 were determined in these soil profiles. At the Black Grama and tobosa sites, Cs-137 was uniformly distributed across the sites. At mesquite sites, Cs-137 was concentrated in the dune area under mesquite shrubs with little to no Cs-137 in the interdune areas indicating soil redistribution from the interdune space to the dune. At the tarbush sites Cs-137 concentration was variable. Calculated erosion rates varied with vegetation type and within vegetation type. The black grama showed no net soil loss, while the tobosa site showed a net soil deposition of 5 t/ha/yr. The tarbush site had both soil erosion and deposition depending on sample location. The mesquite sites were also highly variable depending on location of the site and whether samples were taken from the dune area under the mesquite plant or from the space between dunes. Interdune areas always showed soil loss while some dunes showed gains in soil and others showed soil loss. This study shows that Cs-137 data from soil profiles can provide insights into the redistribution patterns of soil resources in these semiarid grass and shrub communities.

Last Modified: 10/25/2014
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