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SEDFATE (Sediment fate in a changing watershed during the Anthropocene) is a research project funded by the SNF Sinergia programme, which aims to quantify the processes of sediment production, transfer and deposition in the upper Rhone river basin, Swiss Alps, draining into Lake Geneva. The goal is to study changes in sediment dynamics from source areas to the sink in Lake Geneva using a combination of field observations and experiments, sediment tracing, bathymetric mapping, and hydrological modelling. A particular focus is on explaining the effects of dam construction and flow regulation on the sediment budget and the role of humans in this changing watershed.
Project Partners: Uni Bern, Uni Geneva, Uni Lausanne, ETH Zurich
Begin: 1 February 2014 for a duration of 3 years
- Project A: Quantification of sedimentation rates and sources in Lake Geneva (University of Geneva)
The Rhone delta in Lake Geneva is a sink for most of the sediment eroded in the watershed and transported by the Rhone River. The main goals of this project are i) to quantitatively evaluate the sediment yield from the watershed and its variability in the last cca. 100 years, ii) to provide information about changes in sediment sources, and iii) to establish a detailed chronological framework for the deposits in Lake Geneva. Data acquisition will consist of bathymetric and seismic surveys, and sediments core analyses (sedimentological analyses, radiometric dating, core scanning, geochemical fingerprinting).
Project leaders: Dr. Jean-Luc Loizeau, Dr. Stephanie Girardclos and Prof. Fritz Schlunegger (UniBe)
- Project B: Spatial and temporal variability in sediment sources (University of Bern)
The Rhone drainage basin has experienced changes in the relative contribution of sediment from tributary basins. This project will identify the relative sources of sediment in selected sub-basins using dating and provenance tracing techniques and will make links between the lake sedimentary record and the upstream catchment to identify the spatial and temporal variability of sources. The aim is to determine the physical and geochemical fluxes and to trace the provenance of the sediment based on major and trace elements, heavy mineral analyses and in-situ terrestrial cosmogenic nuclides of sediment in transport and deposited on floodplains. Hillslope and channel metrics extracted from digital elevation models will serve to interpret the landscape's susceptibility to erosion. The research involves analytical tools in sedimentary petrography (heavy mineral analyses, 10Be measurements, geochemical analyses of sediments) plus standard geomorphic techniques.
Project leaders: Prof. Fritz Schlunegger and Dr. Jean-Luc Loizeau (UniGe)
- Project C: Effect of river regulation and geomorphic forcing (University of Lausanne)
Flow abstraction by hydropower system operation disrupts sediment transfer by reducing the sediment transporting capacity of rivers. This project will use remote sensing, aerial photography, instream measurement and mathematical modelling to quantify this effect in the Val d’Herens basin and compare the potential disruption of sediment transfer and its consequences on the morphology of affected streams with estimates of short-term erosion rates for the past 100 years for a range of geomorphic processes typical of Alpine systems. The ideal candidate will have a MSc degree in Earth sciences or physical geography. The research requires experience and interest in field work, installation of instream monitoring systems, photogrammetry, modelling.
Project leaders: Prof. Stuart Lane and Prof. Peter Molnar (ETHZ)
- Project D: Basin-scale hydrology and sediment transport (ETH Zurich)
The anthropogenic effects of dam construction and hydropower system operation on streamflow and sediment fluxes in the entire Rhone basin will be quantified by hydrological modelling using a fully distributed physically-based approach. This project will develop hypotheses for the production and routing of coarse and fine sediment, support these by field observations, and implement in a watershed model to make statistical predictions of change. Modelling will be supported by evidence of change in hydroclimatology in the past 100 years from long-term instrumental records.
Project leaders: Prof. Peter Molnar and Prof. Stuart Lane (UniLa)