Suspended Sediment Mineralogy and the Nature of Suspended Sediment Particles in Stormflow of the Southern Piedmont of the USA
©2019. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved. The majority of annual sediment flux is transported during storm events in many watersheds across the world. Using X-ray diffraction, we analyzed the mineralogy of grab samples of suspended sediment during different stages of storm hydrographs in the Southern Piedmont. Mineralogy of suspended sediment changes drastically from quartz-dominated during the rising limb to clay dominated during the late falling limb/baseflow. Changes in mineralogy can shed insight into turbidity relationships, suspended sediment sources, energy versus supply-limited sediment transport, and other suspended sediment parameters such as anion exchange capacity and trace element chemistry. An unexpected key finding, confirmed by X-ray diffraction and electron microscopy, is that both kaolinite and quartz are primarily transported as discrete crystalline minerals of different size classes in our watersheds; this contrasts with existing scientific literature stating that in most fluvial systems suspended sediment is transported primarily as composite particles composed of a heterogeneous mix of all particle sizes. Our findings also support existing literature that turbidity can be a good proxy for elements such as P, which are preferentially adsorbed onto iron oxide coatings thus in situ turbidity probes have great potential to provide relatively inexpensive estimates of P flux when calibrated for specific watersheds.
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