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© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  09 Mar 2020

09 Mar 2020

Review status
A revised version of this preprint was accepted for the journal BG and is expected to appear here in due course.

Decoupling silicate weathering from primary productivity – how ecosystems regulate nutrient uptake along a climate and vegetation gradient

Ralf A. Oeser1 and Friedhelm von Blanckenburg1,2 Ralf A. Oeser and Friedhelm von Blanckenburg
  • 1GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, Section 3.3 Earth Surface Geochemistry, Potsdam, D-14473, Germany
  • 2Freie Universität Berlin; Institute of Geological Science, Berlin, D-12249, Germany

Abstract. In addition to the supply of primary minerals and water flow the presence and growth of land plants are thought to drive rock weathering. While doubtlessly plants and their associated below-ground microbiota possess the tools for considerable weathering work, the quantitative evaluation of their impact relative to the common abiogenic weathering processes remains poorly known. Here we report on a strategy to decipher the relative impact of these two drivers. We did so by quantifying weathering rates and nutrient uptake along the EarthShape transect in the Chilean Coastal Cordillera where landscapes are subjected to a substantial north to south gradient in precipitation and vegetation growth, whereas rock type is granitoid throughout and tectonic process rates do not differ much along the gradient. We quantified the bio-available fraction of nutritive elements in regolith and we measured 87Sr/86Sr isotope ratios in the different compartments of the Earth’s Critical Zone (bedrock, regolith, bio-available fraction in saprolite and soil, and vegetation) to identify the sources of mineral nutrients to plants. We thereby budgeted inventories, gains, and losses of nutritive elements in and out of these ecosystems, and quantified mineral nutrient recycling. We found that the weathering rates do not increase with precipitation from north to south along the climate gradient. Instead, the simultaneous increase in biomass growth rate is accommodated by faster nutrient recycling. The absence of an increase in weathering rate in spite of a five-fold increase in precipitation leads us to hypothesize that the presence of plants can negatively impact weathering through inducing secondary-mineral formation and by fostering a microbial community that is adapted for nutrient-recycling rather than nutrient-acquisition through weathering.

Ralf A. Oeser and Friedhelm von Blanckenburg

Ralf A. Oeser and Friedhelm von Blanckenburg

Data sets

Dataset for evaluation element fluxes released by weathering and taken up by plants along the EarthShape climate and vegetation gradient R. A. Oeser von Blanckenburg, Friedhelm

Ralf A. Oeser and Friedhelm von Blanckenburg


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Latest update: 18 Sep 2020
Publications Copernicus
Short summary
We parameterized the nutrient fluxes in four ecosystems along the Chilean Coastal Cordillera which form a sequence from north to south covering arid to humid-temperate climate conditions. Along this gradient plant cover and net primary production increases. We investigated how nutrient demand by plants drives weathering. We found that higher plants fulfill their nutrient demand by recycling and may not be a big driver in the global silicate-weathering cycle.
We parameterized the nutrient fluxes in four ecosystems along the Chilean Coastal Cordillera...