Spatial Analysis of Post-Fire Sediment Redistribution Using Rare Earth Element Tracers
|Many grasslands in arid and semi-arid regions are undergoing rapid changes in vegetation, including encroachment of woody plants and invasive grasses, which can alter the rates and patterns of fire and sediment transport in these landscapes. We investigated the spatial distribution of sediments at the scale of vegetated microsites for three years following a prescribed fire using a multiple rare earth element (REE) tracer-based approach in a shrub-grass transition zone in the northern Chihuahuan desert (New Mexico, USA). To this end, we applied REE tracers – holmium, europium, and ytterbium on shrub, grass, and bare microsites, respectively in March 2016. Soil samples were collected from both burned and control (not burned) sites before (March) and after (June) the annual windy season, from 2016 through 2018. Results indicate that although the horizontal mass flux (HMF) of wind-borne sediment increased approximately threefold in the first windy season following the fire, and the HMF of both plots were not significantly different after three windy seasons. Comparing REE concentrations in sediments from both plots over the three years and three annual windy seasons, we observed a post-fire shift in source and sink dynamics of sediments. The tracer analysis of wind-borne sediments indicated that the source of the HMF in the burned site was mostly derived from shrub microsites following the fire, whereas the bare microsites were the major contributors for aeolian sediment in control areas. The shift in sources and sinks, and the spatial homogenization of REEs indicate that the removal of shrub vegetation resulted in sediment redistribution to the bare microsites even three years after the prescribed fire. The findings of this study will improve our understanding of post-fire geomorphic processes at a microsite scale in a grassland ecosystem undergoing land degradation induced by shrub encroachment.
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|Rare Earth Elements
|Spatial Analysis of Post-Fire Sediment Redistribution Using Rare Earth Element Tracers
|Grandstaff, David E.
|Buynevich, Ilya V. (Ilya Val)
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