, Volume 42, Issue 1-2, pp 21-53

The Effect of Plants on Mineral Weathering

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Abstract

This paper is centered on the specific effects of plants on the soil weathering environment; we attempt to address how to quantify this component of the ecosystem and assess feedbacks between plants and weathering processes that influence the degree and rates of mineral weathering. The basic processes whereby plants directly influence the soil chemical environment is through the generation of weathering agents, biocycling of cations, and the production of biogenic minerals. Plants may indirectly influence soil processes through the alteration of regional hydrology and local soil hydrologic regime which determines the residence time of water available for weathering. We provide a brief review of the current state of knowledge regarding the effects of plants on mineral weathering and critical knowledge gaps are highlighted. We summarize approaches that may be used to help quantify the effects of plants on soil weathering such as state factor analyses, mass balance approaches, laboratory batch experiments and isotopic techniques. We assess the changes in the soil chemical environment along a tropical bioclimatic gradient and identify the possible effects of plant production on the soil mineralogical composition. We demonstrate that plants are important in the transfer of atmospheric carbon dioxide into the mineral weathering cycle and speculate how this may be related to ecosystem properties such as NPP. In the soils of Hawaiian rainforests subjected to deforestation, pasture grasses appear to change the proportion of non crystalline to crystalline minerals by altering the soil hydrologic regime or partitioning silica into more stable biogenic forms. A better understanding of the relationship between soil weathering processes and ecosystem productivity will assist in the construction predictive models capable of evaluating the sensitivity of biogeochemical cycles to perturbations.