When dust inputs are large or have persisted for long periods of time, the signature of dust additions are often apparent in soils. The of dust will be greatest where the geochemical composition of dust is distinct from local sources of soil parent material. In this study the influence of dust accretion on soil geochemistry is quantified for two different soils from the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado, USA. At both study sites, dust is enriched in several trace elements relative to local rock, especially Cd, Cu, Pb, and Zn. Mass-balance calculations that do not explicitly account for dust inputs indicate the accumulation of some elements in soil beyond what can be explained by weathering of local rock. Most observed elemental enrichments are explained by accounting for the long-term accretion of dust, based on modern isotopic and geochemical estimates. One notable exception is Pb, which based on mass-balance calculations and isotopic measurements may have an additional source at one of the study sites. These results suggest that dust is a major factor influencing the development of soil in these settings and is also an important control of soil weathering fluxes. After accounting for dust inputs in mass-balance calculations, Si weathering fluxes from San Juan Mountain soils are within the range observed for other temperate systems. Comparing dust inputs with mass-balanced based flux estimates suggests dust could account for as much as 50–80% of total long-term chemical weathering fluxes. These results support the notion that dust inputs may sustain chemical weathering fluxes even in relatively young continental settings. Given the widespread input of far-traveled dust, the weathering of dust is likely and important and underappreciated aspect of the global weathering engine.
Additional publication details
Aeolian controls of soil geochemistry and weathering fluxes in high-elevation ecosystems of the Rocky Mountains, Colorado