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Proposed initiative would study Earth's weathering engine

July 1, 2004

At the Earth's surface, a complex suite of chemical, biological, and physical processes combines to create the engine that transforms bedrock into soil (Figure 1). Earth's weathering engine provides nutrients to nourish ecosystems and human society mediates the transport of toxic components within the biosphere, creates water flow paths that carve and weaken bedrock, and contributes to the evolution of landscapes at all temporal and spatial scales. At the longest time scales, the weathering engine sequesters CO2, thereby influencing long-term climate change.

Despite the importance of soil, our knowledge of the rate of soil formation is limited because the weathering zone forms a complex, ever-changing interface, and because scientific approaches and funding paradigms have not promoted integrated research agendas to investigate such complex interactions. No national initiative has promoted a systems approach to investigation of weathering science across the broad array of geology, soil science, ecology and hydrology. Such a program is certainly needed, and this article describes a platform on which to build the initiative to answer the following question: How does the Earth weathering engine break down rock to nourish ecosystems, carve terrestrial landscapes, and control carbon dioxide in the global atmosphere?

Citation Information

Publication Year 2004
Title Proposed initiative would study Earth's weathering engine
DOI 10.1029/2004EO280001
Authors Suzanne P. Anderson, Joel D. Blum, Susan L. Brantley, Oliver A. Chadwick, Jon Chorover, Louis A. Derry, James I. Drever, Janet G. Hering, J. W. Kirchner, Lee R. Kump, Daniel D. Richter, Arthur F. White
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Eos Science News
Index ID 70239859
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse