Environmental Earth Sciences

, Volume 65, Issue 1, pp 373–384 | Cite as

Spatial and isotopic analysis of watershed soil loss and reservoir sediment accumulation rates in Lake Anna, Virginia, USA

Original Article


Soil erosion and associated sedimentation are a threat to the sustainable use of surface water resources through the loss of volume storage capacity and conveyance of pollutants to receiving water bodies. The RUSLE2 empirical model and isotopic sediment core analyses were used to evaluate watershed erosion and reservoir sediment accumulation rates for Lake Anna, in Central Virginia. A sediment flux rate of 66,000 Mg/year was estimated from the upper basin and land use was determined to be the primary factor contributing to soil erosion. Barren lands and agricultural activities were estimated to contribute the most sediment (>20 Mg/ha/year), whereas forested and herbaceous landscapes were less likely to erode (<0.3 Mg/ha/year). Eleven separate 210Pb-based estimates of sediment accumulation were used to construct reservoir-scale sedimentation rates. Sedimentation rates in the upper reaches of the reservoir were variable, ranging from 2.3 to 100 Mg/ha/year, with a median rate of 8.4 Mg/ha/year. Historical sedimentation showed an increase in annual accumulation from 1972 to present. Based on these data the reservoir has experienced a 2% loss of volume storage capacity since impoundment in 1972. Results from this study indicate that Lake Anna is not currently experiencing excessive sedimentation and erosion problems. However, the predominance of highly erosive soils (soil erodibility factor >0.30) within the watershed makes this system highly vulnerable to future anthropogenic stressors.


Soil erosion Reservoir sedimentation Land use 210Pb RUSLE2 



The authors would like to thank the University of Mary Washington for their financial support during the course of this project. They are also thankful to Lake Anna Civic Association (LACA) for funding portions of their isotopic analyses through a grant to Dr. Grant Woodwell. The authors also wish to thank Stephanie Andreucci, Dr. Neil Tibert, Dr. Werner Weiland, Lee Sillitoe, and Leigh Goldstein for their assistance in field sampling and laboratory analysis.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Earth and Environmental ScienceUniversity of Mary WashingtonFredericksburgUSA
  2. 2.School of Forestry and Wildlife SciencesAuburn UniversityAuburnUSA

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