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 2022

SPONSOR: NSF EAR Geobiology and Low Temperature Geochemistry

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

GRADUATE STUDENTS: Amanda Pennino (VT), Josh Benton (VT), Stephanie Duston (VT), Jenny Bower (UVM)

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., McGuire, K.J., Ross, D.S., Green, M.B., & Fraser, O.L., 2019. Mineral weathering and podzolization control acid neutralization and streamwater chemistry gradients in upland glaciated catchments, northeastern USA, Frontiers in Earth Science, 7, 63, doi:10.3389/feart.2019.00063.


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.

Benton, J., Schreiber, M.E., McGuire, K.J., Strahm, B.D., Ross, D.S., Bailey, S.W., Bower, J., Duston, S. 2018. Characterizing Subsurface Hydrologic Fluxes within a Glaciated Watershed, H21K-1810, presented at 2018 Fall Meeting, AGU, Washington D.C., 10-14 Dec.

Bower, J., Ross, D., Bailey, S., McGuire, K., Strahm, B., Schreiber, M., Benton, J., Duston, S. 2019. Quantifying mineral weathering across lateral gradients using a whole-regolith approach, Gordon Research Conference, June 23-27, Andover, NH.

Bower, J., Ross, D.S., Bailey, S.W., McGuire, K.J., Strahm, B.D., Schreiber, M.E., Ashe U, K., Benton, J., Duston, S. 2018. Quantifying mineral weathering across lateral gradients using a whole-regolith approach, H21K-1797, presented at 2018 Fall Meeting, AGU, Washington D.C., 10-14 Dec.

Duston, S., Strahm, B.D., McGuire, K.J., Ross, D.S., Schreiber, M.E., Bailey, S.W., Benton, J., Bower, J., Pennino, A. 2019. Contribution of organic acidity on the weathering engine of the critical zone, 126-1, presented at 2018-2019 International Soils Meeting, San Diego, CA, 6-9 Jan.

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.

McGuire, K.J., 2017. A soil-landscape framework for understanding spatial and temporal variability in biogeochemical processes in catchments, B53H-02, Fall Meeting, AGU, New Orleans, LA, 11-15 Dec.

McGuire, K.J., Bailey, S.W., 2018. Using Soil Development Patterns and Processes to Explain Sources of Streamflow Generation in a Glaciated Catchment, Abstract-H23D-01, Fall Meeting, AGU, Dec. 10-14, Washington DC. (invited presentation)

Pennino, A., McGuire, K., Strahm, B., Bailey, S., Bower, J., Duston G, S., Benton, J., Schreiber, M., Ross, D. 2019. Refining spatial and temporal estimations of solute fluxes associated with chemical weathering, Gordon Research Conference, June 23-27, Andover, NH.

Ross, D.S., Bourgault, R., Bailey, S., McGuire, K., 2018. Critical zone architecture and the redistribution of soil metals and organic carbon in a New Hampshire headwater catchment. Northeastern Section – 53rd Annual Meeting, 18–20 March, Burlington, VT.

Ross, D.S., Bailey, S.W., Strahm, B.D., McGuire, K.J., Schreiber, M.E., Bower, J., Benton, J., Duston G, S., Pennino, A. 2019. Lateral Weathering Gradients in the Critical Zone of an Upland Glaciated Catchment. 147-2, presented at 2018-2019 International Soils Meeting, San Diego, CA, 6-9 Jan.


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.