Using sediment budgets to investigate the pathogen flux through catchments

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We demonstrate a materials budget approach to identify the main source areas and fluxes of pathogens through a landscape by using the flux of fine sediments as a proxy for pathogens. Sediment budgets were created for three subcatchment tributaries of the Googong Reservoir in southeastern New South Wales, Australia. Major inputs, sources, stores, and transport zones were estimated using sediment sampling, dam trap efficiency measures, and radionuclide tracing. Particle size analyses were used to quantify the fine-sediment component of the total sediment flux, from which the pathogen flux was inferred by considering the differences between the mobility and transportation of fine sediments and pathogens. Gullies were identified as important sources of fine sediment, and therefore of pathogens, with the pathogen risk compounded when cattle shelter in them during wet periods. The results also indicate that the degree of landscape modification influences both sediment and pathogen mobilization. Farm dams, swampy meadows and glades along drainage paths lower the flux of fine sediment, and therefore pathogens, in this landscape during low-flow periods. However, high-rainfall and high-flow events are likely to transport most of the fine sediment, and therefore pathogen, flux from the Googong landscape to the reservoir. Materials budgets area repeatable and comparatively low-cost method for investigating the pathogen flux through a landscape.
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Whiteway, T
Laffan, Shawn
Wasson, R
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Journal Article
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UNSW Faculty