Hahm et al., 2013

Talk/Poster

Strong Lithologic Control on Mountain Ecosystem Productivity and Landscape Evolution

Hahm, W.J., C.S. Riebe, C.E. Lukens, and S. Araki. (2013)
The Geological Society of America annual meeting  

Abstract

Mountain landscapes provide sharp altitudinal gradients in environmental conditions over short distances that are often
uninterrupted by large differences in lithology. For this reason, they are commonly used as natural laboratories for understanding
erosion, weathering, pedogenesis and ecosystem processes. In particular, granitic terrain, common in many mountain ranges, is
widely used to study climatic effects on surface processes, because it is thought to be homogeneous compared to other
lithologies found at Earth’s surface. Here we show that geochemical differences among plutons correspond with sharp contrasts in
weathering, erosion, and ecosystem productivity along a 180 km transect through non-glaciated portions of the Sierra Nevada
Batholith, California. We couple bedrock geochemistry with tree cores and remotely-sensed canopy cover to show that
productivity varies systematically with the underlying substrate when climate and topography are held constant. Pluton contacts
coincide over tens of kilometers with abrupt ecotones between dense mixed-conifer forests and exposed bedrock. Our
catchment-wide measurements of 10Be indicate that soil-mantled, forested areas erode ~2.5 times faster than predominantly
exposed-bedrock areas, indicative of a feedback between bedrock, vegetation, weathering and erosion. Canopy cover and
bedrock phosphorus concentration covary across more than an order of magnitude. We propose that this reflects a parentmaterial-driven
nutrient limitation, where ecosystem productivity appears to be controlled by an element present on average at
only 600 ppm in bedrock. The 21 sites in our lithosequence span nearly the full geochemical range of Cordilleran granitoids,
implying that hitherto undetected lithologic control on ecosystem productivity and landscape evolution may be widespread in
mountain ranges.

Citation

Hahm, W.J., C.S. Riebe, C.E. Lukens, and S. Araki. (2013): Strong Lithologic Control on Mountain Ecosystem Productivity and Landscape Evolution. The Geological Society of America annual meeting.

This Paper/Book acknowledges NSF CZO grant support.