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Bayesian sediment fingerprinting provides a robust tool for environmental forensic geoscience applications

By
Ingrid F. Small
Ingrid F. Small
1
Environmental Systems Research Group, Department of Geography, University of Dundee
Dundee DD1 4HN, UK
(e-mail: i.f.small@dundee.ac.uk)
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John S. Rowan
John S. Rowan
1
Environmental Systems Research Group, Department of Geography, University of Dundee
Dundee DD1 4HN, UK
(e-mail: i.f.small@dundee.ac.uk)
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Stewart W. Franks
Stewart W. Franks
2
School of Engineering, University of Newcastle
Newcastle, Callaghan 2308, NSW, Australia
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Adam Wyatt
Adam Wyatt
2
School of Engineering, University of Newcastle
Newcastle, Callaghan 2308, NSW, Australia
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Robert W. Duck
Robert W. Duck
1
Environmental Systems Research Group, Department of Geography, University of Dundee
Dundee DD1 4HN, UK
(e-mail: i.f.small@dundee.ac.uk)
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Published:
January 01, 2004

Abstract

Sediment fingerprinting is an approach for the quantitative determination of sediment provenance (both spatial sources and types of sediment supply) over a range of temporal and spatial scales. Though widely adopted, studies often vary in their attention to the underlying assumptions and in their treatment of modelling uncertainty. A Bayesian approach to the multivariate problem of ‘unmixing’ sediment sources is reported, showing the significance of source group variability and source group sampling density to the accuracy of model output. The model produces results as median source group contributory coefficients (and associated 95% quantiles). The model was applied to environmental data obtained from selected soil erosion studies reported within the peer-reviewed literature. Good correspondence (r2=0.89) between reported mean source group contributory coefficients and median values were found when recalculated using the Bayesian analysis. However, confidence levels are highly variable, ranging from 2% to 97%. The robustness of any unmixing solution depends on factors such as the number of samples, the number of source groups and the variance of source group properties. It is concluded that ‘forensic-style’ investigations must recognize these uncertainties and be appropriately resourced to achieve tolerable accuracy and precision. The discussion considers additional confounding factors such as non-conservative tracer behaviour and enrichment/depletion during the sediment delivery process.

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Contents

Geological Society, London, Special Publications

Forensic Geoscience: Principles, Techniques and Applications

K. Pye
K. Pye
Kenneth Pye Associates Ltd & Royal Holloway, University of London, UK
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D. J. Croft
D. J. Croft
Croft Scientific and Technical & Kenneth Pye Associates Ltd, UK
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Geological Society of London
Volume
232
ISBN electronic:
9781862394803
Publication date:
January 01, 2004

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