Lateral weathering gradient project

Scott Bailey coring bedrock at Hubbard Brook.

PROJECT TITLE: Lateral weathering gradients typify critical zone architecture in glaciated catchments

DATES: Sept. 2017 to August 2020

SPONSOR: NSF EAR Geobiology and Low Temperature Geochemistry

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATORS: Kevin McGuire, Scott Bailey (USFS), Don Ross (UVM), Brian Strahm (VT), Madeline Schreiber (VT)


PROJECT SUMMARY: The thin skin of soil on Planet Earth is what makes life possible. The interactions of water and rock, or mineral weathering, are responsible for the development of the soil that sustains life and regulates water quality and flow. As such, mineral weathering is a critical natural service that provides nutrients required for plant growth and controls the cycling of nutrients through the environment and their transport to downstream rivers, lakes, estuaries, and the ocean. In this study, mountainous areas of the northeastern United States provide a natural laboratory to examine processes and rates of mineral weathering where soils are relatively young (less than 10,000 years) and bedrock is often shallow, providing spatial gradients of mineral depletion and accumulation across the landscape. This region with young soils supports forests in some of the most densely forested states in the country and is the source of the major rivers of the northeast, providing major metropolitan areas downstream with abundant, clean water. These forest soils also provide other vital services including wildlife habitat and a regional economy driven by sustainable harvest of forest products and recreational opportunities. Many of these services are dependent on the balance between the rate at which rocks break down to recharge soil nutrient supply versus the rates at which materials are removed via tree harvest or are transported downstream. Uncertainty in mineral weathering rates, and whether such rates keep pace with losses, is a long-standing question in the sustainability of intensive forest harvest, and in understanding how forests respond to disturbances. For more information, go to the NSF website.



Bailey, S.W., 2017. Soil and human influences on the fate of plagioclase weathering products, Gordon Research Conference on Catchment Science: Interactions of Hydrology, Biology & Geochemistry, June 25-30, Lewiston, ME.

McGuire, K.J., Bailey, S.W., Ross, D.S., Strahm, B.D., Schreiber, M.E., 2016. Lateral weathering gradients in glaciated catchments, Abstract EP43C-0974, Fall Meeting, AGU, Dec. 12-16, San Francisco, CA.


Hubbard Brook Ecosystem Study webpage

This material on this webpage is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. EAR 1643327 and 1643415.  Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.