Fluorescent particle tracers in surface hydrology: a proof of concept in a semi-natural hillslope
In this paper, a proof of concept experiment is conducted to assess the feasibility of tracing overland flow on an experimental hillslope plot via a novel fluorescent particle tracer. Experiments are performed by using beads of diameters ranging from 75 to 1180 μm. Particles are sensed through an experimental apparatus comprising a light source and a video acquisition unit. Runoff on the experimental plot is artificially simulated by using a custom-built rainfall system. Particle transits are detected through supervised methodologies requiring the presence of operators and unsupervised procedures based on image analysis techniques. Average flow velocity estimations are executed based on travel time measurements of the particles as they are dragged by the overland flow on the hillslope. Velocities are compared to flow measurements obtained using rhodamine dye. Experimental findings demonstrate the potential of the methodology for understanding overland flow dynamics in complex natural settings. In addition, insights on the optimization of particle size are presented based on the visibility of the beads and their accuracy in flow tracing.