Geomorphic Control on Mineral and Fluid Residence Times and Implications for the Hydrochemistry of Weathering
Abstract:Understanding how hydrologic and geochemical processes are coupled, and how this coupling is linked to geomorphic boundary conditions, remains a fundamental problem in the Geosciences, with implications from hydrology and ecosystem science to the geologic carbon cycle. In this study, we present paired measurements of water chemistry and river runoff in four nested catchments spanning the transition from the Andes Mountains to the foreland floodplain in Peru. These data provide insight into the linkages between catchment hydrology and weathering across a dramatic geomorphic gradient.
Along the studied gradient, bedrock-derived solute concentrations range from being nearly constant in the Andes to showing significant dilution in response to increasing runoff in the foreland floodplain. Mean catchment slope appears to be a robust predictor of the power law exponent relating solute concentrations and runoff, which implies that erosional processes are an underlying control on concentration-runoff relationships.
A number of factors may explain the observed slope-dependency of concentration-runoff relationships, including both mineral and fluid residence times. Seasonal variation in the δD of the Andean rivers is significantly damped relative to variation in the δD of precipitation. Along with consideration of the annual water budget, these data suggest that water is transiently stored within fractured bedrock in the Andean catchments. Across the entire study area, the seasonal variation in the δD of tributaries (i.e. streams that drain only a narrow range of elevations) increases with decreasing mean catchment elevation, which suggests that fluid residence times are shorter in the foreland floodplain relative to the Andes. Together, we interpret these factors to suggest that erosional processes, by modulating both the residence time of water and minerals in the critical zone, control the hydrologic sensitivity of weathering processes along the Andes-to-Amazon gradient.