, Volume 26, Issue 3, pp 166-171

Assessing the impact of weir construction on recent sedimentation using cesium-137

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Abstract

Ten cores were obtained from a marsh developed along Mad Island Slough, Texas, USA, upstream of a weir constructed in 1948. The cores were analyzed for cesium-137 to identify time-stratigraphic marker horizons and calculate recent sedimentation rates. The cesium-137 analysis provided a 1954 marker horizon in nine of the ten cores. A second marker horizon, present in all ten cores, consisted of an abrupt downcore change in lithology from dark organic-rich muds to grey organic-poor sands. This transition was tentatively identified as coinciding with 1948 and the beginning of marsh sedimentation. Resulting sedimentation rates show that surprisingly little sedimentation has occurred behind the weir, averaging only 27 cm in almost 50 years. Sedimentation rates in the marsh declined from an average of 2.4 cm yr−1 in 1948–1954 to 0.32 cm yr−1 in 1954–1994. A similar trend of declining sedimentation has been documented for adjoining Mad Island Lake, suggesting that land-use changes in the lake's watershed have reduced the sediment supply in recent decades. The results also suggest that the weir is not a very efficient sediment trap in this watershed.