INTEGRATING MULTIPLE MEASUREMENT TECHNIQUES TO UNDERSTAND HOW THE DELIVERY OF SEDIMENTS TO THE GREAT BARRIER REEF HAS CHANGED OVER SPACE AND TIME
Monday, 15 December 2014: 2:25 PM
Based on the ratio of various trace-elements from coral cores, there is considerable evidence that the amount of sediment reaching the Great Barrier Reef (GBR), Australia, has increased since agricultural development commenced in the 1870’s. However, understanding the primary source and processes driving the increase in sediment delivery has been challenging due to the variable geology and episodic hydrology of adjacent catchments. This paper presents the results from several projects that use a range of measurement techniques all aimed at understanding the spatial and temporal changes in sediment yield from the Burdekin watershed, Australia. Cosmogenic nuclide analysis (10Be) was combined with contemporary sediment flux monitoring to help identify the high risk sub-watersheds. Particle size analysis of the sediment loads from the sub-watersheds has determined the primary source areas for the fine (clay) sediment fractions. Within the sub-watersheds, fallout radionuclides (137Cs, 7Pb and 7Be) showed that most of the fine sediment is coming from vertical channel walls (50%) or horizontal sub-surface soils (~42%). Changes to in-stream sedimentation rates, derived from OSL dating, suggest that sediment delivery to channels lags behind reductions to vegetative ground cover. Historical archives of remotely sensed ground cover data were then linked to animal stocking rates in the area. Together, these data sets help elucidate the often complex sediment delivery processes and provide a stronger link between grazing land management and sediment flux to the GBR. This study highlights the benefit of using a range of techniques and data sets to identify the major sediment sources in these highly variable systems. The implications for land management restoration, policy and investment are discussed.