Sourcing sediment using multiple tracers in the catchment of Lake Argyle, Northwestern Australia

R. J. Wasson, Gary Caitcheon, Andrew S. Murray, Malcolm McCulloch, Jay Quade

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations


Control of sedimentation in large reservoirs requires soil conservation at the catchment scale. In large, heterogeneous catchments, soil conservation planning needs to be based on sound information, and set within the framework of a sediment budget to ensure that all of the potentially significant sources and sinks are considered. The major sources of sediment reaching the reservoir, Lake Argyle, in tropical northwestern Australia, have been determined by combining measured sediment fluxes in rivers with spatial tracer-based estimates of proportional contributions from tributaries of the main stream entering the lake, the Ord River. The spatial tracers used are mineral particle magnetics, the strontium isotopic ratio, and the neodymium isotopic ratio. Fallout of 137Cs has been used to estimate the proportion of the sediment in Lake Argyle eroded from surface soils by sheet and rill erosion, and, by difference, the proportion eroded from subsurface soils by gully and channel erosion. About 96% of the sediment in the reservoir has come from less than 10% of the catchment, in the area of highly erodible soils formed on Cambrian-age sedimentary rocks. About 80% of the sediment in the reservoir has come from gully and channel erosion. A major catchment revegetation program, designed to slow sedimentation in the reservoir, appears to have had little effect because it did not target gullies, the major source of sediment. Had knowledge of the sediment budget been available before the revegetation program was designed, an entirely different approach would have been taken.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)634-646
Number of pages13
JournalEnvironmental Management
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2002


  • Catchment management
  • Sediment sources
  • Sedimentation
  • Tracers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology
  • Pollution


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