Assessing soil redistribution of forest and cropland sites in wet tropical Africa using 239+240Pufallout radionuclides

Florian Wilken, Peter Fiener, Michael Ketterer, Katrin Meusburger, Daniel Iragi Muhindo, Kristof Van Oost, Sebastian Doetterl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Due to the rapidly growing population in tropical Africa, a substantial rise in food demand is predicted in upcoming decades, which will result in higher pressure on soil resources. However, there is limited knowledge on soil redistribution dynamics following land conversion into arable land in tropical Africa that is partly caused by infrastructure limitations for long-term landscape-scale monitoring. In this study, fallout radionuclides 239+240Pu are used to assess soil redistribution along topographic gradients at two cropland sites and at three nearby pristine forest sites located in the DR Congo, Uganda and Rwanda. In the study area, a 239+240Pu baseline inventory is found that is higher than typically expected for tropical regions (mean forest inventory 41Bqm-2). Pristine forests show no indication of soil redistribution based on 239+240Pu along topographical gradients. In contrast, soil erosion and sedimentation on cropland reached up to 37cm (81Mgha-1yr-1) and 40cm (87Mgha-1yr-1) within the last 55 years, respectively. Cropland sites show high intra-slope variability with locations showing severe soil erosion located in direct proximity to sedimentation sites. This study shows the applicability of a valuable method to assess tropical soil redistribution and provides insight into soil degradation rates and patterns in one of the most socio-economically and ecologically vulnerable regions of the world.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)399-414
Number of pages16
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 8 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science


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