Aquatic Geochemistry

, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 1–17 | Cite as

Mobility and Transport of Nd Isotopes in the Vadose Zone During Weathering of Granitic Till in a Boreal Forest

  • Björn ÖhlanderEmail author
  • Magnus Land
  • Johan Ingri
  • Anders Widerlund
Original Paper


There is a broad correlation between the εNd values for rivers (including both the water and the particulate material it carries) and the age of the source terrain. This paper presents Nd isotope distribution data for soil, soil water, groundwater, and stream water samples gathered in a small catchment in northern Sweden. The results show that the release of Nd and Sm from boreal forests into streams and, eventually, into the oceans is more complicated than previously realized. The weathering of till causes changes in both the Nd isotopic composition and Sm/Nd ratios. Both the Sm/Nd ratio and εNd were higher in strongly weathered soils horizons than in less weathered till, since minerals with high Sm/Nd ratios were, on average, more resistant to weathering than those with low Sm/Nd ratios. In contrast to the situation for the main minerals and the major elements, the weathering of rare earth elements (REE) was not restricted to the E-horizon: the measured REE concentrations continued to increase with depth in the C-horizon. In addition, REE released by weathering in the upper parts of the soil profile were partly secondarily retained at deeper levels. Therefore, the dissolved Nd released by weathering in the upper soil horizons was trapped and did not enter the groundwater directly. Rather, the Nd in the groundwater largely originated from weathering within the groundwater zone. However, this was not the only source of Nd in the stream water. The Nd isotope composition and Sm/Nd ratio were determined by the mixing between of Nd and Sm in the groundwater and REE-carrying organic material washed out of the soil profile. The groundwater close to the stream reaches the upper soil horizons during high discharge events such as snowmelts, and organic matter carrying Nd and Sm is washed out of the soils and thus released into the stream. Therefore, the Nd exported from catchment is derived from both the weathering within the groundwater zone, and the organic matter washed out from the soil. If longer timescales with more advanced weathering stages in the groundwater zone are considered, it cannot be ruled out that there will be a shift towards more radiogenic values in the exported Nd. Recorded shifts in the Nd isotopic composition in the ocean may thus not only reflect changed source regions, but also the weathering history of the same source region.


Nd isotopes Geochemistry Weathering Boreal forests Transport 



This work was supported by DOE grant DE-FG03-88ER13851, Caltech Division of Geology and Planetary Sciences Contribution #8653(1045) when Magnus Land was post-doc at Caltech, and by Luleå University of Technology.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Björn Öhlander
    • 1
    Email author
  • Magnus Land
    • 2
  • Johan Ingri
    • 1
  • Anders Widerlund
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Applied GeologyLuleå University of TechnologyLuleåSweden
  2. 2.Mistra Council for Evidence-based Environmental Management (EviEM)The Royal Swedish Academy of SciencesStockholmSweden

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