Biological inputs and organic matter cycling have long been regarded as important factors in the physical and chemical development of soils. In particular, the extent to which low molecular weight organic acids, such as oxalate, influence geochemical reactions has been widely studied. Although the effects of organic acids are diverse, there is strong evidence that organic acids accelerate the dissolution of some minerals. However, the influence of organic acids at the field-scale and over the timescales of soil development has not been evaluated in detail. In this study, a reactive-transport model of soil chemical weathering and pedogenic development was used to quantify the extent to which organic acid cycling controls mineral dissolution rates and long-term patterns of chemical weathering. Specifically, oxalic acid was added to simulations of soil development to investigate a well-studied chronosequence of soils near Santa Cruz, CA. The model formulation includes organic acid input, transport, decomposition, organic-metal aqueous complexation and mineral surface complexation in various combinations. Results suggest that although organic acid reactions accelerate mineral dissolution rates near the soil surface, the net response is an overall decrease in chemical weathering. Model results demonstrate the importance of organic acid input concentrations, fluid flow, decomposition and secondary mineral precipitation rates on the evolution of mineral weathering fronts. In particular, model soil profile evolution is sensitive to kaolinite precipitation and oxalate decomposition rates. The soil profile-scale modeling presented here provides insights into the influence of organic carbon cycling on soil weathering and pedogenesis and supports the need for further field-scale measurements of the flux and speciation of reactive organic compounds.
Additional publication details
Modeling the influence of organic acids on soil weathering