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Concept: Weathering


The multitemporal behavior of soil loss by surface water erosion in the hydrographic basin of the river Mourão in the center-western region of the Paraná state, Brazil, is analyzed. Forecast was based on the application of the Universal Soil Loss Equation (USLE) with the data integration and estimates within an Geography Information System (GIS) environment. Results had shown high mean annual rain erosivity (10,000, with great concentration in January and December. As a rule, soils have average erodibilities, exception of Dystroferric Red Latisol (low class) and Dystrophic Red Argisol (high class). Although the topographic factor was high (>20), rates lower than 1 were predominant. Main land uses comprise temporal crops and pasture throughout the years. The watershed showed a natural potential for low surface erosion. When related to usage types, yearly soil loss was also low (<50 ton.ha-1.year-1), with more critical scores that reach rates higher than 150 ton.ha-1.year-1. Soil loss over the years did not provide great distinctions in distribution standards, although it becames rather intensified in some sectors, especially in the center-eastern and southwestern sections of the watershed.

Concepts: Water, Geographic information system, Soil, Erosion, Surface runoff, Geomorphology, Weathering, Universal Soil Loss Equation


Large Hesperian-aged (~3.7 Ga) layered deposits of sulfate-rich sediments in the equatorial regions of Mars have been suggested to be evidence for ephemeral playa environments. But early Mars may not have been warm enough to support conditions similar to what occurs in arid environments on Earth. Instead cold, icy environments may have been widespread. Under cryogenic conditions sulfate formation might be blocked, since kinetics of silicate weathering are typically strongly retarded at temperatures well below 0 °C. But cryo-concentration of acidic solutions may counteract the slow kinetics. Here we show that cryo-concentrated acidic brines rapidly chemically weather olivine minerals and form sulfate minerals at temperatures as low as -60 °C. These experimental results demonstrate the viability of sulfate formation under current Martian conditions, even in the polar regions. An ice-hosted sedimentation and weathering model may provide a compelling description of the origin of large Hesperian-aged layered sulfate deposits on Mars.

Concepts: Oxygen, Water, Sedimentary rock, Mineral, Sulfur, Salt, Silicate minerals, Weathering


Chimpanzees of the Sonso community, Budongo Forest, Uganda were observed eating clay and drinking clay-water from waterholes. We show that clay, clay-rich water, and clay obtained with leaf sponges, provide a range of minerals in different concentrations. The presence of aluminium in the clay consumed indicates that it takes the form of kaolinite. We discuss the contribution of clay geophagy to the mineral intake of the Sonso chimpanzees and show that clay eaten using leaf sponges is particularly rich in minerals. We show that termite mound soil, also regularly consumed, is rich in minerals. We discuss the frequency of clay and termite soil geophagy in the context of the disappearance from Budongo Forest of a formerly rich source of minerals, the decaying pith of Raphia farinifera palms.

Concepts: Mineral, Aluminium, Sulfur, Silicate minerals, Clay, Feldspar, Ore, Weathering


The timing of the seasonal freeze-thaw cycle of arctic lakes affects ecological processes and land-atmosphere energy fluxes. We carried out detailed ice-phenology mapping of arctic lakes, based on daily surface-reflectance time series for 2000-2013 from MODIS at 250 m spatial resolution. We used over 13,300 lakes, area >1 km(2), in five study areas distributed evenly across the circumpolar Arctic - the first such phenological dataset. All areas showed significant trends towards an earlier break-up, stronger than previously reported. The mean shift in break-up start ranged from -0.10 days/year (Northern Europe) to -1.05 days/year (central Siberia); the shift in break-up end was between -0.14 and -0.72 days/year. Finally, we explored the effect of temperature on break-up timing and compared results among study areas. The 0 °C isotherm shows the strongest relationship (r = 0.56-0.81) in all study areas. If the trend in early break-up continues, rapidly changing ice phenology will likely generate significant, arctic-wide impacts.

Concepts: Statistics, Trend, Norway, Arctic Ocean, Arctic, Weathering, Siberia, Phenology


The history of atmospheric O2 partial pressures (Po2) is inextricably linked to the coevolution of life and Earth’s biogeochemical cycles. Reconstructions of past Po2 rely on models and proxies but often markedly disagree. We present a record of Po2 reconstructed using O2/N2 ratios from ancient air trapped in ice. This record indicates that Po2 declined by 7 per mil (0.7%) over the past 800,000 years, requiring that O2 sinks were ~2% larger than sources. This decline is consistent with changes in burial and weathering fluxes of organic carbon and pyrite driven by either Neogene cooling or increasing Pleistocene erosion rates. The 800,000-year record of steady average carbon dioxide partial pressures (Pco2) but declining Po2 provides distinctive evidence that a silicate weathering feedback stabilizes Pco2 on million-year time scales.

Concepts: Time, Oxygen, Carbon dioxide, Nitrogen, Carbon, Mineral, Erosion, Weathering


Kinetics of humic acid (HA) adsorption onto soil minerals (kaolinite and hematite) has been investigated under various conditions. The influence of ionic strength, pH, and solution cations on the rate of adsorption has been studied. The rate and the amount of adsorbed humic acid onto soil minerals increased with increasing ionic strength, decreasing pH, and in the presence of Ca(2+) as background electrolyte. The adsorption equilibrium data showed that adsorption behavior of humic acid could be described more reasonably by Freundlich adsorption isotherm than Langmiur adsorption isotherm. Pseudo first order and pseudo second order kinetic models were used to evaluate the kinetic data and the rate constants. The results explained that humic acid adsorption on hematite and kaolinite was more conforming with pseudo second order kinetics.

Concepts: Soil, Adsorption, Rate equation, Colloidal chemistry, Freundlich equation, Humus, Humic acid, Weathering


The magnitude of future climate change could be moderated by immediately reducing the amount of CO2entering the atmosphere as a result of energy generation and by adopting strategies that actively remove CO2from it. Biogeochemical improvement of soils by adding crushed, fast-reacting silicate rocks to croplands is one such CO2-removal strategy. This approach has the potential to improve crop production, increase protection from pests and diseases, and restore soil fertility and structure. Managed croplands worldwide are already equipped for frequent rock dust additions to soils, making rapid adoption at scale feasible, and the potential benefits could generate financial incentives for widespread adoption in the agricultural sector. However, there are still obstacles to be surmounted. Audited field-scale assessments of the efficacy of CO2capture are urgently required together with detailed environmental monitoring. A cost-effective way to meet the rock requirements for CO2removal must be found, possibly involving the recycling of silicate waste materials. Finally, issues of public perception, trust and acceptance must also be addressed.

Concepts: Agriculture, Precipitation, Climate, Nitrogen, Waste management, Atmosphere, Crop, Weathering


Chemical weathering consumes atmospheric carbon dioxide through the breakdown of silicate minerals and is thought to stabilize Earth’s long-term climate. However, the potential influence of silicate weathering on atmospheric pCO2 levels on geologically short timescales (10(3)-10(5) years) remains poorly constrained. Here we focus on the record of a transient interval of severe climatic warming across the Toarcian Oceanic Anoxic Event or T-OAE from an open ocean sedimentary succession from western North America. Paired osmium isotope data and numerical modelling results suggest that weathering rates may have increased by 215% and potentially up to 530% compared to the pre-event baseline, which would have resulted in the sequestration of significant amounts of atmospheric CO2. This process would have also led to increased delivery of nutrients to the oceans and lakes stimulating bioproductivity and leading to the subsequent development of shallow-water anoxia, the hallmark of the T-OAE. This enhanced bioproductivity and anoxia would have resulted in elevated rates of organic matter burial that would have acted as an additional negative feedback on atmospheric pCO2 levels. Therefore, the enhanced weathering modulated by initially increased pCO2 levels would have operated as both a direct and indirect negative feedback to end the T-OAE.

Concepts: Oxygen, Carbon dioxide, Oceanography, Climate, Mineral, Ocean, Global warming, Weathering


Negative emission technologies (NETs) target the removal of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, and are being actively investigated as a strategy to limit global warming to within the 1.5-2°C targets of the 2015 UN climate agreement. Enhanced silicate weathering (ESW) proposes to exploit the natural process of mineral weathering for the removal of CO2 from the atmosphere. Here, we discuss the potential of applying ESW in coastal environments as a climate change mitigation option. By deliberately introducing fast-weathering silicate minerals onto coastal sediments, alkalinity is released into the overlying waters, thus creating a coastal CO2 sink. Compared with other NETs, coastal ESW has the advantage that it counteracts ocean acidification, does not interfere with terrestrial land use and can be directly integrated into existing coastal management programmes with existing (dredging) technology. Yet presently, the concept is still at an early stage, and so two major research challenges relate to the efficiency and environmental impact of ESW. Dedicated experiments are needed (i) to more precisely determine the weathering rate under in situ conditions within the seabed and (ii) to evaluate the ecosystem impacts-both positive and negative-from the released weathering products.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Carbon, Mineral, Atmosphere, Ocean, Global warming, Alkalinity, Weathering


Enhanced weathering (EW) aims to amplify a natural sink for CO2 by incorporating powdered silicate rock with high reactive surface area into agricultural soils. The goal is to achieve rapid dissolution of minerals and release of alkalinity with accompanying dissolution of CO2 into soils and drainage waters. EW could counteract phosphorus limitation and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in tropical soils, and soil acidification, a common agricultural problem studied with numerical process models over several decades. Here, we review the processes leading to soil acidification in croplands and how the soil weathering CO2 sink is represented in models. Mathematical models capturing the dominant processes and human interventions governing cropland soil chemistry and GHG emissions neglect weathering, while most weathering models neglect agricultural processes. We discuss current approaches to modelling EW and highlight several classes of model having the potential to simulate EW in croplands. Finally, we argue for further integration of process knowledge in mathematical models to capture feedbacks affecting both longer-term CO2 consumption and crop growth and yields.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Agriculture, Soil, Mineral, Natural gas, Mathematical model, Greenhouse gas, Weathering