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Core-derived historical records of suspended sediment origin in a mesoscale mountainous catchment: the River Bléone, French Alps

Abstract : Purpose: Quantifying suspended sediment fluxes and dynamics across mountains, and identifying the origin of sediment in severely eroded areas, are of primary importance for the management of water resources. This contribution aims to generalise previous results from suspended sediment fingerprinting obtained during 2007–2009 in a mesoscale Alpine catchment (the Bléone River; 905 km$^2$) in France, and to assess variability in sediment sources throughout the second half of the twentieth century. Materials and methods: Sediment fingerprinting, based on elemental geochemistry and radionuclide measurements, was conducted on a sediment core collected in an alluvial floodplain at the basin outlet. This technique was combined with hydro-sedimentary time-series to reconstruct the origin of suspended sediment deposited at this location over the last 50 years. Results and discussion: Interpretation of sedimentation based on historical hydrological databases corroborates core dating obtained with $^{137}$Cs and $^{210}$Pb$_{xs}$ activity measurements. Black marls and (marly) limestone sources provided the main fraction of sediment throughout the sequence (40 and 22 %, respectively). However, we also found evidence for the occurrence of major floods carrying large quantities of sediment originating from Quaternary deposits and conglomerates (25 and 16 %, respectively). The variability of sediment sources throughout the sequence may reflect the spatial variability of rainfall within the catchment, which in turn reflects its origin. However, the relatively homogeneous sediment composition throughout the sequence confirms that core-derived information is representative of widespread flood events. Conclusions : These results are consistent with those obtained in previous studies. They also outline the need to take into account the entire grain size range of fine sediment in order to provide an overall picture of sediment sources and transfers within highly erosive catchments. This study also emphasizes the importance of using archival data to validate the results of sediment fingerprinting studies conducted during short contemporary monitoring programmes, and to extend fingerprinting of sediment sources over longer time-scales which include large and widespread floods.
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O. Navratil, O. Evrard, Michel Esteves, Sophie Ayrault, Irène Lefèvre, et al.. Core-derived historical records of suspended sediment origin in a mesoscale mountainous catchment: the River Bléone, French Alps. Journal of Soils and Sediments, Springer Verlag, 2012, 12 (9), pp.1463-1478. ⟨10.1007/s11368-012-0565-2⟩. ⟨cea-02862749⟩

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