Terrestrial and stream chemical linkages reveal extent of rock weathering in the perhumid coastal temperate rainforest of Alaska.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
David V D'Amore, U.S. Forest Service, Juneau, AK, United States and Tom Trainor, University of Alaska Fairbanks - UAF, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Fairbanks, AK, United States
Climate influences the rate of reactions that drive material fluxes, especially the rock-water interaction within the earth’s critical zone. The perhumid temperate rainforests of southeast Alaska (PCTR) are valuable sites for testing theories and applying models for ecosystem development. The landscape of the PCTR is chronologically young, but by contrast, has experienced rapid change during the Holocene due to a humid climate that promotes intense soil weathering and rapid accumulation of soil organic carbon. We investigated the magnitude of present rock-water interaction in several catchments and watersheds arrayed across a spectrum of this landscape evolution. All of the catchments had evidence of weathering as indicated by cation export relative to sea-salt aerosol input. The magnitude of the weathering signature was inversely related to the accumulation of organic carbon in the catchment. We conclude that biological processes inhibit the weathering of lithologic materials due to organic matter accumulation. However, there is clear evidence that the landscape is still actively weathering. The extent of the consumption of CO2 by rock weathering will be critical in determining long-term carbon budgets in the region and determining the sink strength of the terrestrial ecosystem. This study provides a template for examining landscape evolution in the context of critical zone science in a relatively pristine landscape.