Production of mineral surface area within deep weathering profiles at eroding vs. depositional hillslope locations: Christina River Basin Critical Zone Observatory
Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Geomorphic and biogeochemical processes and hillslope morphology are partly controlled by the extent and degree of chemical weathering between soil and bedrock. The production of mineral specific surface area (SSA) via chemical weathering is a critical variable for mechanistic understanding of weathering and provides an interface between minerals and the soil carbon cycle. We examined two 21-meter deep drill cores in the Laurels Schist at 141 MASL (summit) and 130 MASL (interfluve) in a 900 ha first order watershed in the Laurels Preserve, a forested land use end member in the Christina River Basin CZO. In addition to mineral SSA, we report elemental and mineralogical changes through both weathering profiles. Despite highly variable bedrock composition, mobile elements (Ca & Na) are depleted within 3-5 m below the ground surface, which is consistent with the removal of Ca-Na-plagioclase ((Na,Ca)Al(Si,Al)3O8) at this interval; we consider this depth as a weathering front. The water table in both boreholes was ~123 MASL (5/2014), which is well below the weathering front, suggesting that weathering processes are not coupled with groundwater interactions in this system. Clay XRD reveals the presence of secondary phyllosilicates including vermiculite, illite, and kaolinite in the upper 3 m of the summit weathering profile, which are weathering products of primary plagioclase, muscovite, and chlorite. The currently available clay mineralogy results are consistent with the decrease in total SSA from up to 20 m2g-1 at the surface to <5 m2g-1 below 3 m depth. Within the first 3 m from the surface, citrate-dithionate extractable iron contributed 30-60% of the total surface area. Therefore transformation of primary minerals to secondary phyllosilicate minerals, involving leaching loss of cations, was partly responsible for SSA production, but iron oxides play a significant role in production of SSA above the weathering front. This observation did not differ between topographic locations, which may reflect that hillslope morphology predates the timeframe of pedogenic processes in this system. These findings suggest that the propagation rates of the weathering front and the trajectory and efficiency of mineral chemical weathering in producing SSA may be independent of topography over the time and length scales examined.