The effects of sediment transport, weathering, and aeolian mechanisms on soil evolution Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • Aeolian‐derived soils are found throughout the world. Soil evolution processes in aeolian‐dominated landscapes differ from processes in bedrock‐weathering landscapes by a number of key aspects including the lack of (1) soil production depth dependency, (2) surface armoring, and (3) grain size self‐organization in the soil profile. We use here a soil evolution model (mARM5D) to study the differences between aeolian and bedrock‐weathering‐dominated landscapes by analyzing soil evolution on a hillslope under various aeolian and bedrock‐soil supply settings subject to fluvial and diffusive sediment transport. The model simulates spatial and temporal variation in soil particle size distribution (PSD) and profile depth for each grid cell on the landscape, as a function of physical weathering, aeolian deposition, and diffusive and fluvial sediment transport. Our results indicate that surface armoring plays a major role in soil evolution. Under bedrock‐weathering‐dominated conditions, armoring reduces soil erosion and in conjunction with depth‐dependent soil production, leads to steady state soil grading and depth and a relatively uniform soil distribution. In contrast, aeolian‐dominated landscapes tend to have considerable spatial variability in soil depth and PSD. Our results also indicate that in contrast with diffusive transport, which is assumed to be PSD independent, fluvial sediment transport is strongly influenced by the soil production mechanism (aeolian or bedrock weathering). Based on the results presented here, we propose that aeolian‐dominated landscapes are more responsive to environmental changes (e.g., climatic and anthropogenic) compared with bedrock‐weathering landscapes. We further propose that this sensitivity may help explain the patchy soil distribution that is often observed in aeolian‐dominated regions.

publication date

  • January 1, 2015