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A strategic programme for NERC Lowland catchment research
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Tracing the source of silt

Eroded soil can damage aquatic life by silting up river channels. For example, salmon donít breed well when their gravel spawning beds are silted up. And silt can carry pesticides and nutrients into the water from fields. River managers need to know where the eroded sediment comes from so that it can be controlled.

LOCAR has used innovative 'fingerprinting' methods to investigate the source of the fine sediment moving through the study catchments. The detailed field measurements clearly showed that the shift from pasture to cultivation in southern England affects rivers. For the first time we have a complete picture of where eroded soil particles come from and go to.

LOCAR discovered that bank erosion is only a minor source of sediments in most of the study catchments: much of it comes from agricultural land and particularly from ploughed fields. Very little silt comes from unploughed pasture. This important new information can be used by environmentally sensitive farming initiatives to reduce silt in rivers.

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