Date of Graduation

Fall 2003


Master of Natural and Applied Science in Geography, Geology, and Planning


Geography, Geology, and Planning

Committee Chair

Robert Pavlowsky


Alluvial sediments record both hydrologic changes and variations of sediment quality affecting watersheds. This study uses urban pollution signatures as temporal tracers to date alluvial deposits along Wilson Creek located within Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield Park in southwestern Missouri. The creek drains Springfield, the third largest city in the state, which was settled in 1833. This study has three main objectives: (1) review historical documents to develop a pollution history for the watershed; (2) determine if there is a correlation between heavy metal and phosphorus concentrations in sediment cores and the timing of release of those elements into the creek system; and (3) evaluate stratigraphic relationships of pollutant trends to describe the history and rates of floodplain sedimentation. Samples were collected from thirteen core locations across a terrace-floodplain transect and analyzed for geochemistry, organic content, pH, Munsell color, and texture. 137Cesium dating was used to identify the 1954 and 1964 layers and aerial photography was used to determine changes in stream location and morphology since 1936. Results show that (1) post-World War II urban pollution signatures are evident in the top 50 cm of floodplain deposits, with significant changes in concentrations with depth of Pb, Hg, Ag, Cu, Zn, and P; (2) some of these trends can be correlated with changes in land use patterns in Springfield and known industrial developments, toxic chemical releases, and wastewater treatment plant operations; (3) sedimentation rates averaged 0.8 cm/yr from 1861-1954, 2.5 cm/yr from 1954-1964, and 0.4 cm/yr from 1964-2002, with an overall average of 0.8 cm/yr.


floodplains, fluvial sediments, urban pollution, Wilson Creek, Missouri

Subject Categories

Hydrology | Sedimentology


© Kathy A. Shade

Open Access