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https://doi.org/10.5194/soil-2020-22
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/soil-2020-22
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: original research article 22 Apr 2020

Submitted as: original research article | 22 Apr 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal SOIL.

Understanding the role of water and tillage erosion from 239+240Pu tracer measurements using inverse modelling

Florian Wilken1,2, Michael Ketterer3, Sylvia Koszinski4, Michael Sommer4,5, and Peter Fiener2 Florian Wilken et al.
  • 1Department of Environmental Systems Science, Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland
  • 2Institute for Geography, Universität Augsburg, Augsburg, Germany
  • 3Chemistry and Biochemistry, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, USA
  • 4Working Group Landscape Pedology, Leibniz-Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research ZALF e.V., Müncheberg, Germany
  • 5Institute of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany

Abstract. Soil redistribution on arable land is a major threat for a sustainable use of soil resources. The soil redistribution process most studies focus on is water erosion, while wind and tillage erosion also induce pronounced redistribution of soil materials. Especially, tillage erosion is understudied, as it does not lead to visible off-site damages. The analysis of on-site/in-field soil redistribution is mostly based on tracer studies, whereas radionuclide tracers (e.g. 137Cs, 239+240Pu) from nuclear weapon tests are commonly used to derive the erosion history over the past 50–60 yr. Tracer studies allow to determine soil redistribution patterns, but integrate all kinds of soil redistribution processes and hence do not allow to unravel the contribution of different erosion processes. The aim of this study is to understand the contribution of water and tillage erosion leading to soil patterns found in a small hummocky ground moraine catchment under intensive agricultural use. Therefore, 239+240Pu derived soil redistribution patterns were analysed using an inverse modelling approach accounting for water and tillage erosion processes. The results of this analysis clearly point out that tillage erosion is the dominant process of soil redistribution in the small catchment, which also affects the hydrological and sedimentological connectivity between arable land and the kettle hole. A topographic change up to 17 cm (53 yr)−1 in the eroded parts of the catchment is not able to explain the current soil profile truncation that exceeds the 239+240Pu derived topographic change substantially. Hence, tillage erosion is not limited to the time since the onset of intense mechanisation since the 1960s. In general, the study stresses the urgent need to consider tillage erosion as a very important soil degradation process that drives patterns of soil properties in our arable landscapes.

Florian Wilken et al.

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Short summary
Soil redistribution by water and tillage erosion processes on arable land is a major threat for a sustainable use of soil resources. We unravel the role of tillage and water erosion from fallout radionuclide (239+240Pu) activities in a ground moraine landscape. Our results show that tillage erosion dominates soil redistribution processes and has a major impact on the hydrological and sedimentological connectivity, which has started before the onset of highly mechanised farming since the 1960th.
Soil redistribution by water and tillage erosion processes on arable land is a major threat for...
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