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Soil degradation and nutrient export in the upper alpine level of the Reuss watershed

English title Soil degradation and nutrient export in the upper alpine level of the Reuss watershed
Applicant Alewell Christine
Number 113331
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Institut für Umweltgeowissenschaften Universität Basel
Institution of higher education University of Basel - BS
Main discipline Pedology
Start/End 01.12.2006 - 30.11.2008
Approved amount 127'781.00
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All Disciplines (3)

Other disciplines of Environmental Sciences

Keywords (7)

Soil degradation; Soil Acidification; Soil Erosion; Stable Isotopes; erosion; nutrient export; Swiss Alpes

Lay Summary (English)

Lay summary
Soil degradation of upland soils, especially export of nutrients, influences nutrient content and biogeochemistry of riparian zones and wetlands in catchments significantly. Our hypothesis was that due to the fact that oxic upland soils with a predominantly assimilatory metabolism differ significantly from anoxic wetland soils and riparian zones with dissimilatory metabolism, stable isotopes of sulphur, nitrogen, oxygen and carbon can be used as potential tracers for the erosion of soil material from upland to lowland soils. Furthermore, the export of minerals (feldspars, silica, and aluminium) during soil erosion should produce gradients in minerals which can be used as an additional tracer to identify impact of soil erosion into wetlands.
This report is a follow-on proposal to a project which has been supported by the SNF for two years (Project no. 105579: 01.12.2004 - 30.11.2006).
Transects in stable isotope dynamics were determined from upland soils (oxic environment and erosion source) to lowlands (predominantly anoxic environments and sink of erosion material). Stable isotopes have shown to be a promising tool to reflect soil processes. There is also evidence that the influence of soil erosion from an upland site to an adjacent wetland can be detected by comparing stable isotope signatures of wetland sites affected by erosion with sites that are not influenced. Stable isotope geochemistry is a very sensitive tool and results are influenced by several different factors. In the Urseren valley the influence of farmyard manure on the stable isotope signature of wetlands was identified as a possible influence. The latter must be investigated further.
The study in the first part of the project (2005-2006) has mainly focused on stable isotope investigations. In the current proposal (2007-2008) we will concentrate more on the analysis of mineral gradients. We aim on detecting relative differences in the abundance of minerals by comparing sites affected by erosion with unaffected sites. Furthermore, the attention shall be turned on the question if there are certain minerals which can be used as indicators for soil degradation. As a reference for all stable isotope mineral and investigations the measurement of 137Cs concentrations will be used. Thus, a control measurement concerning the spatial distribution and the extent of soil degradation in the investigation area will be available.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants


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Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
137569 Stable carbon isotopes in soils as indicators of environmental change 01.02.2012 Project funding (Div. I-III)
121258 A GC-MS/GC-IRMS for the molecular-level analyses of organic matter and the isotopic characterization of inorganic and organic compounds in aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems 01.07.2008 R'EQUIP
169556 Combining biogeochemical and modelling approach to assess peatland restoration 01.06.2017 Project funding (Div. I-III)
146018 Improving soil erosion assessment in Swiss mountainous areas using radionuclides (137Cs, 239+240Pu) 01.10.2013 Project funding (Div. I-III)
105579 Soil degradation and nutrient export in the upper alpine level of the Reuss watershed 01.12.2004 Project funding (Div. I-III)
155889 Stable carbon isotopes in soils as indicators of environmental change 01.04.2015 Project funding (Div. I-III)
167333 weObserve: Integrating Citizen Observers and High Throughput Sensing Devices for Big Data Collection, Integration, and Analysis 01.05.2017 NRP 75 Big Data