Year of Publication

2017

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Document Type

Master's Thesis

College

Arts and Sciences

Department

Earth and Environmental Sciences (Geology)

First Advisor

Dr. Kevin M. Yeager

Abstract

Floodplains, and the sediment accumulating naturally on them, are important to maintain stream water quality and serve as sinks for organic and inorganic carbon. Newer theories contend that land use and hydrologic connectivity (water-mediated transport of matter, energy, and/or organisms within or between elements of the hydrologic cycle) play important roles in determining sediment accumulation on floodplains. This study hypothesizes that changes in hydrologic connectivity have a greater impact on floodplain sediment accumulation than changes in land use. Nine sediment cores from seven sub-basins were collected from the Savannah River Site (SRS), South Carolina, and processed for grain-size, radionuclide dating (7Be, 137Cs, 210Pb), particulate organic carbon (POC), and microscopy. Historical records, including aerial and satellite imagery, were used to identify anthropogenic disturbances in the sub-basins, as well as to calculate the percentages of natural vegetation land cover at the SRS in 1951, and 2014. LiDAR and field survey data identified 251 flow impediments, measured elevation, and recorded standard stream characteristics (e.g., bank height) that can affect hydrologic connectivity. Radionuclide dating was used to calculate sediment mass accumulation rates (MARs) and linear accumulation rates (LARs) for each core. Results indicate that sedimentation rates have increased across all SRS sub-basins over the past 40-50 years, shortly after site restoration and recovery efforts began. Findings show that hydrologic connectivity proxies (i.e., stream characteristics and impediments) have stronger relationships to MARs and LARs than the land use proxy (i.e., vegetation cover), confirming the hypothesis. As stream channel depth and the number of impediments increase, floodplain sedimentation rates also increase. This knowledge can help future stream restoration efforts by focusing resources to more efficiently attain stated goals, particularly in terms of floodplain sediment retention.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

https://doi.org/10.13023/ETD.2017.511

Included in

Geology Commons

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