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Bern & Yesavage, 2018


Dual-phase mass balance modeling of small mineral particle losses from sedimentary rock-derived soils

Bern, Carleton R. and Yesavage, Tiffany (2018)
Chemical Geology 476:441–455  


Losses of small mineral particles can be a significant physical process that affects the elemental composition of soils derived from sedimentary rocks. Shales, in particular, contain abundant clay-sized minerals that can be mobilized by simple disaggregation, and solutional weathering is limited because the parent rock is composed primarily of recalcitrant minerals previously subjected to continental weathering. Here, the dual-phase mass balance model is employed to quantify losses of small mineral particles as water dispersible colloids (WDCs) from three previously studied soil profiles along a hill slope at the Susquehanna Shale Hills Critical Zone Observatory (SSHO). WDCs were isolated from soil in the laboratory to determine their mineralogical and elemental compositions. Clay minerals dominated WDCs, including illite, vermiculite, and chlorite inherited from the parent shale, along with neoformed kaolinite. Quartz present in bulk soil was generally excluded from WDCs. Elements of low solubility and/or bound in recalcitrant forms, like Rb in illite, were employed in tracer ratios in the dual-phase model. Aluminum, Ga, and Rb were enriched in WDCs, and Zr and Hf were partially excluded. Six different combinations of elements into tracer ratios (Al/Zr, Ga/Zr, Rb/Zr, Al/Hf, Ga/Hf, Rb/Hf) each yielded similar model results. Mass losses of WDCs were large, ranging from −68 ± 7% to −15 ± 5%relative to soil parent material in different parts of the profiles. Mass losses via solution were smaller, ranging from −7 ± 2% to a gain of 6 ± 1% in part of one profile. Losses of WDCs account for > 90% of total mass loss, surpassing chemical dissolution, and therefore dominate the weathering portion of denudation at SSHO. Zirconium concentrations were 97–158 ppm in the generally ≤1 μm WDCs, suggesting colloidal, Zr-bearing phases. Model-quantified losses of Zr via WDCs were large, with a median loss of 41% relative to parent material. Such losses indicate systematic underestimates of weathering by traditional mass balance that uses Zr as an index element. Losses of Ca, Mg, and K via WDCs exceeded losses via solution, countering assumptions of base cation losses primarily via mineral dissolution. The results illustrate a geochemical fingerprint of physical weathering and the ability of the dual-phase model to quantify that weathering process.


Bern, Carleton R. and Yesavage, Tiffany (2018): Dual-phase mass balance modeling of small mineral particle losses from sedimentary rock-derived soils . Chemical Geology 476:441–455. DOI: 10.1016/j.chemgeo.2017.11.040

This Paper/Book acknowledges NSF CZO grant support.