Chemical denudation and chemical weathering rates vary under climatic, bedrock, biotic, and topographic conditions. Constraints for landscape evolution models must consider changes in these factors on human and geologic time scales. Changes in nutrient dynamics, related to the storage and exchange of K+ in clay minerals as a response to land use change, can affect the rates of chemical weathering and denudation. Incorporation of these changes in landscape evolution models can add insight into how land use changes affect soil thickness and erodibility. In order to assess changes in soil clay mineralogy that result from land-use differences, the present study contrasts the clay mineral assemblages in three proximal sites that were managed differently over nearly the past two centuries where contemporary vegetation was dominated by old hardwood forest, old-field pine, and cultivated biomes. X-ray diffraction (XRD) of the oriented clay fraction using K-, Mg-, and Na-saturation treatments for the air-dried, ethylene glycol (Mg-EG and K-EG) solvated, and heated (100, 350, and 550ºC) states were used to characterize the clay mineral assemblages. XRD patterns of degraded biotite (oxidized Fe and expelled charge-compensating interlayer K) exhibited coherent scattering characteristics similar to illite. XRD patterns of the Mg-EG samples were, therefore, accurately modeled using NEWMOD2® software by the use of mineral structure files for discrete illite, vermiculite, kaolinite, mixed-layer kaolinite-smectite, illite-vermiculite, kaolinite-illite, and hydroxy-interlayered vermiculite. The soil and upper saprolite profiles that formed on a Neoproterozoic gneiss in the Calhoun Experimental Forest in South Carolina, USA, revealed a depth-dependence for the deeply weathered kaolinitic to the shallowly weathered illitic/vermiculitic mineral assemblages that varied in the cultivated, pine, and hardwood sites, respectively. An analysis of archived samples that were collected over a five-decade growth period from the pine site suggests that the content of illite-like layers increased at the surface within 8 y. Historical management of the sites has resulted in different states of dynamic equilibrium, whereby deep rooting at the hardwood and pine sites promotes nutrient uplift of K from the weathering of orthoclase and micas. Differences in the denudation rates at the cultivated, pine, and hardwood sites through time were reflected by changes in the soil clay mineralogy. Specifically, an increased abundance of illite-like layers in the surface soils can serve as a reservoir of K+.
Austin, Jason C., Amelia Perry, Daniel D. Richter, and Paul A. Schroeder (2018): Modifications of 2:1 clay minerals in a kaolinite dominated Ultisol under changing land-use regimes. Clays and Clay Minerals 66(1): 61-73. DOI: 10.1346/CCMN.2017.064085
This Paper/Book acknowledges NSF CZO grant support.