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Catchment-wide weathering and erosion rates of mafic, ultramafic, and granitic rock from cosmogenic meteoric 10Be/9Be ratios


IPGP - Îlot Cuvier


Séminaires Géochimie

Salle 310

Hella Wittmann

GFZ Potsdam

Quantifying rates of weathering and erosion of mafic rocks is essential for estimating changes to the oceans alkalinity budget that plays a significant role in regulating atmospheric CO2 levels. In this study, we present catchment-wide rates of weathering, erosion, and denudation measured with cosmogenic nuclides in mafic and ultramafic rock. We use the ratio of the meteoric cosmogenic nuclide 10Be, deposited from the atmosphere onto the weathering zone, to stable 9Be, a trace metal released by silicate weathering. We tested this approach in stream sediment and water from three upland forested catchments in the north-west Czech Republic. The catchments are underlain by felsic (granite), mafic (amphibolite) and ultramafic (serpentinite) lithologies. Due to acid rain deposition in the 20th century, the waters in the granite catchment exhibit acidic pH, whereas waters in the mafic catchments exhibit neutral to alkaline pH values due to their acid buffering capability. The atmospheric depositional 10Be flux is estimated to be balanced with the streams’ dissolved and particulate meteoric 10Be export flux to within a factor of two. We suggest a correlation method to derive bedrock Be concentrations, required as an input parameter, which are highly heterogeneous in these small catchments. Derived Earth surface metrics comprise 1) Denudation rates calculated from the 10Be/9Be ratio of the “reactive” Be (meaning sorbed to mineral surfaces) range between 110 to 185 t km-2 y-1 (40 to 70 mm ky-1). These rates are similar to denudation rates we obtained from in situ-cosmogenic 10Be in quartz minerals present in the bedrock or in quartz veins in the felsic and the mafic catchment. 2) The degree of weathering, calculated from the fraction of 9Be released from primary minerals as a new proxy, is about 40 to 50% in the mafic catchments, and 10% in the granitic catchments. Lastly, 3) erosion rates were calculated from 10Be concentrations in river sediment and corrected for sorting and dissolved loss. These amount to 50% of denudation rates from 10Be/9Be in the mafic and ultramafic catchments, the remainder being mass loss in the dissolved form by weathering. In contrast, erosion comprises most of the mass loss in the granitic catchment. These first results are encouraging, given that we find overall good agreement between in situ and meteoric cosmogenic methods, that our denudation rates are in the range of those published for middle European river catchments, and that degrees of weathering are as expected for these diverse lithologies. This method allows quantifying rates of erosion and weathering in mafic rock over the time scale of weathering that are, unlike in situ cosmogenic 10Be, independent from the presence of quartz. 10Be/9Be therefore offers to quantify Earth surface processes in a wide range of landscapes underlain by mafic rock – rates that are of high importance for exploring climate-weathering feedbacks but that have been inaccessible to date.