This preliminary experimental lithogeochemical map shows the distribution of rock types in the Virginia and Maryland parts of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The map was produced digitally by classifying geologic-map units according to composition, mineralogy, and texture; rather than by age and stratigraphic relationships as shown on traditional geologic maps. This map differs from most lithologic maps in that the lithogeochemical unit classification distinguishes those rock units having key water-reactive minerals that may induce acid neutralization, or reduction, of hosted water at the weathering interface. The validity of these rock units, however, is independent of water chemistry, because the rock units are derived from geologic maps and rock descriptions. Areas of high soil carbon content, and sulfide metal deposits are also shown.
Water-reactive minerals and their weathering reactions yield five lithogeochemical unit classes: 1) carbonate rock and calcareous rocks and sediments, the most acid-neutralizing; 2)carbonaceous-sulfidic rocks and sediments, oxygen-depleting and reducing; 3) quartzofeldspathic rocks and siliciclastic sediments, relatively weakly reactive with water; 4) mafic silicate rocks/sediments, oxygen consuming and high solute-load delivering; and, 5) the rarer calcareous-sulfidic (carbonaceous) rocks, neutralizing and reducing. Earlier studies in some parts of the map area have related solute loads in ground and stream waters to some aspects of bedrock lithology. More recent preliminary tests of relationships between four of the classes of mapped lithogeochemical units and ground water chemistry, in the Mid-Atlantic area using this map, have focused on and verified the nitrate-reducing and acid-neutralizing properties of some bedrock and unconsolidated aquifer rock types. Sulfide mineral deposits and their mine-tailings effects on waters are beginning to be studied by others. Additional testing of relationships among the lithogeochemical units and aspects of ground and surface water chemistry could help to refine the lithogeochemical classification, and this map. The testing could also improve the usefulness of the map for assessing aquifer reactivity and the transport properties of reactive contaminants such as acid rain, and nitrate from agricultural sources, in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
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USGS Numbered Series
Preliminary lithogeochemical map showing near-surface rock types in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, Virginia and Maryland