Comparison of mineral weathering and biomass nutrient uptake in two small forested watersheds underlain by quartzite bedrock, Catoctin Mountain, Maryland, USA

Aquatic Geochemistry
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Abstract

To quantify chemical weathering and biological uptake, mass-balance calculations were performed on two small forested watersheds located in the Blue Ridge Physiographic Province in north-central Maryland, USA. Both watersheds, Bear Branch (BB) and Fishing Creek Tributary (FCT), are underlain by relatively unreactive quartzite bedrock. Such unreactive bedrock and associated low chemical-weathering rates offer the opportunity to quantify biological processes operating within the watershed. Hydrologic and stream-water chemistry data were collected from the two watersheds for the 9-year period from June 1, 1990 to May 31, 1999. Of the two watersheds, FCT exhibited both higher chemical-weathering rates and biomass nutrient uptake rates, suggesting that forest biomass aggradation was limited by the rate of chemical weathering of the bedrock. Although the chemical-weathering rate in the FCT watershed was low relative to the global average, it masked the influence of biomass base-cation uptake on stream-water chemistry. Any differences in bedrock mineralogy between the two watersheds did not exert a significant influence on the overall weathering stoichiometry. The difference in chemical-weathering rates between the two watersheds is best explained by a larger proportion of reactive phyllitic layers within the bedrock of the FCT watershed. Although the stream gradient of BB is about two-times greater than that of FCT, its influence on chemical weathering appears to be negligible. The findings of this study support the biomass nutrient uptake stoichiometry of K1.0Mg1.1Ca0.97 previously determined for the study site. Investigations of the chemical weathering of relatively unreactive quartzite bedrock may provide insight into critical zone processes.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Comparison of mineral weathering and biomass nutrient uptake in two small forested watersheds underlain by quartzite bedrock, Catoctin Mountain, Maryland, USA
Series title Aquatic Geochemistry
DOI 10.1007/s10498-013-9205-8
Volume 20
Issue 2
Year Published 2014
Language English
Publisher Springer
Contributing office(s) Virginia Water Science Center
Description 18 p.
First page 225
Last page 242
Country United States
State Maryland
County Frederick
Other Geospatial Catoctin Mountain