The spatial and temporal changes in element and mineral concentrations in regolith profiles in a chronosequence developed on marine terraces along coastal California are interpreted in terms of chemical weathering rates and processes. In regoliths up to 15 m deep and 226 kyrs old, quartz-normalized mass transfer coefficients indicate non-stoichiometric preferential release of Sr > Ca > Na from plagioclase along with lesser amounts of K, Rb and Ba derived from K-feldspar. Smectite weathering results in the loss of Mg and concurrent incorporation of Al and Fe into secondary kaolinite and Fe-oxides in shallow argillic horizons. Elemental losses from weathering of the Santa Cruz terraces fall within the range of those for other marine terraces along the Pacific Coast of North America. Residual amounts of plagioclase and K-feldspar decrease with terrace depth and increasing age. The gradient of the weathering profile bs is defined by the ratio of the weathering rate, R to the velocity at which the profile penetrates into the protolith. A spreadsheet calculator further refines profile geometries, demonstrating that the non-linear regions at low residual feldspar concentrations at shallow depth are dominated by exponential changes in mineral surface-to-volume ratios and at high residual feldspar concentrations, at greater depth, by the approach to thermodynamic saturation. These parameters are of secondary importance to the fluid flux qh, which in thermodynamically saturated pore water, controls the weathering velocity and mineral losses from the profiles. Long-term fluid fluxes required to reproduce the feldspar weathering profiles are in agreement with contemporary values based on solute Cl balances (qh = 0.025-0.17 m yr-1). During saturation-controlled and solute-limited weathering, the greater loss of plagioclase relative to K-feldspar is dependent on the large difference in their respective solubilities instead of the small difference between their respective reaction kinetics. The steady-state weathering rate under such conditions is defined asR = fenced(qh ?? frac(msol, Mtotal)) ?? fenced(frac(1, Sv ?? bs)) ??. The product of qh and the ratio of solubilized to solid state feldspar (msat/Mtotal) define the weathering velocity. The weathering gradient bs reflects the kinetic rate of reaction where Sv is the volumetric surface area of the residual feldspar. Both this rate expression and the spreadsheet calculations produce similar plagioclase weathering rates (R = 5-14 ?? 10-16 mol m-2 s-1) which agree with those reported for other environments of comparable climate and age. Weathering-dependent concentration profiles are commonly described in literature. The present paper provides methods by which these data can yield a more fundamental understanding of the weathering processes involved.
Additional publication details
Chemical weathering of a marine terrace chronosequence, Santa Cruz, California I: Interpreting rates and controls based on soil concentration-depth profiles