Using 137Cs and 210Pbex measurements to estimate soil redistribution rates on semi-arid grassland in Mongolia

H. Kato, Y. Onda, Y. Tanaka

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35 Citations (Scopus)


In this study, two small experimental catchments were selected in semi-arid grassland in Mongolia. The Kherlen-bayan Ulaan (KBU) catchment has been subjected to intensive grazing as a wintering shelter for domestic livestock animals, and the number of livestock animals in the Baganuur (BGN) catchment has been increasing over the last few decades. The rates and patterns of soil erosion within the catchments were estimated based on cesium-137 (137Cs) and lead-210 (210Pbex) inventories in bulk soil core samples. The medium-term (~ 40 years) soil erosion rates based on the 137Cs measurements indicated that annual soil loss from the KBU catchment was approximately three times greater than that from the BGN catchment. The 137Cs-derived rates and patterns of soil erosion indicated that soil in the KBU catchment was susceptible to surface erosion, with facilitated transport of eroded sediment to the catchment outlet. The 210Pbex-derived soil erosion rates were generally greater than those derived from 137Cs in both catchments. If we assume that the soil erosion rate has been increasing with increasing domestic livestock numbers, the most plausible explanation is that the 210Pbex-derived estimates represent recent increases in soil erosion. Furthermore, the 210Pbex/137Cs inventory ratio showed a tendency to increase with downslope distance on the eroded hillslope in the BGN catchment. Assuming that the increase in inventory ratio is a result of constant fallout input of 210Pbex on the eroded sediment during its transportation along the hillslope, the 210Pbex inventory may not be suitable to estimate soil erosion rates at sites where downslope movement of sediment is slow. Further discussion regarding interpretation of 210Pbex-derived soil loss is required, and the applicability of the 210Pbex technique on semi-arid hillslopes remains to be determined.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)508-519
Number of pages12
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2010


  • Cesium-137
  • Lead-210
  • Mongolia
  • Semi-arid grassland
  • Soil erosion


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