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White et al., 2014



WHITE, Timothy S., DERE, Ashlee L., and SHARKEY, Sarah (2014)
2014 GSA Annual Meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia (19–22 October 2014)  
  • Tim White

    National, Shale Hills, INVESTIGATOR, STAFF

  • Ashlee Dere



Paper No. 6-12
Presentation Time: 11:00 AM

Arborturbation, or tree throw, the upheaval of soil and sometimes bedrock in the root mass of a fallen tree, has been suggested as a major process in the overturn and downslope transport of soil and shallow bedrock in mountainous regions. Reported here is a quantification of the effects of tree throw along a climosequence in the Appalachian Mountains in central New York, central Pennsylvania, eastern West Virginia, west central Virginia, eastern Tennessee, and northern Alabama. The study included field measurements of tree throws within a 120-meter diameter search area centered on ridge tops on the Silurian Rose Hill Formation shale and coeval strata of similar composition. The following observations were made for each tree throw at each study site: GPS location, tree girth, relative tree age, tree type, dimensions of pit, azimuth of fall, and slope and azimuth of maximum slope. These observations allowed quantification of the volume and distance of transport of sediment per event, and the number of events/area/time.

Slope and prevailing wind direction, while important in places, did not control the majority of arborturbation events in this study. The total number of tree throws is observed to decrease while sediment flux by tree throw generally increases from north to south along the study transect. Larger trees evacuate larger pits, but interestingly there is no observed increase in the average girth of trees in the study area to account for the discrepancy between number of tree throws and sediment flux. However, the depth to a root limiting layer and the distance from the center of a root wad to the center of an excavated pit increases from north to south – deeper roots excavate more soil and deeper soils generally exist in warmer climates.

The measurements of tree throw were made as part of a broader effort to quantify erosion rates on shale slopes, information that is applicable to understanding the evolution of topography and regolith thickness on shale landscapes. The sediment fluxes reported here range from 1.8 X 10-5m2/m/y to 2.1 X 10-4m2/m/y. The observations double in number and verify formulations of sediment flux due to tree throw cited in the literature. Our values are comparable to the flux rates reported in the literature and exceed by several orders of magnitude values for sediment flux rate by soil creep on slopes.

Session No. 6
T47. Soil Development: Its Role in Geological Processes
Sunday, 19 October 2014: 8:00 AM-12:00 PM
Vancouver Convention Centre-West 213
Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs. Vol. 46, No. 6, p.39


WHITE, Timothy S., DERE, Ashlee L., and SHARKEY, Sarah (2014): ARBORTURBATION RATES OF SOIL ON APPALACHIAN MOUNTAIN SHALE LANDSCAPES. 2014 GSA Annual Meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia (19–22 October 2014).

This Paper/Book acknowledges NSF CZO grant support.