Submitted by CZEN Webmaster on 10/07/2007
Publication Type:Journal Article
Source:EOS, Volume 85, Issue 28, p.265-272 (2004)
Abstract:At the Earth’s surface, a complex suite of chemical, biological, and physical processes combines to create the engine that transforms bedrock into soil (Figure 1).Earth’s weathering engine provides nutrients to nourish ecosystems and human society,mediates the transport of toxic components within the biosphere,creates water flow paths that carve and weaken bedrock, and contributes to the evolution of landscapes at all temporal and spatial scales.At the longest time scales, the weathering engine sequesters CO2, thereby influencing long-term climate change. Despite the importance of soil, our knowledge of the rate of soil formation is limited because the weathering zone forms a complex, ever-changing interface,and because scientific approaches and funding paradigms have not promoted integrated research agendas to investigate such complex interactions.No national initiative has promoted a systems approach to investigation of weathering science across the broad array of geology, soil science, ecology, and hydrology. Such a program is certainly needed, and this article describes a platform on which to build the initiative to answer the following question:How does the Earth weathering engine break down rock to nourish ecosystems, carve errestrial landscapes, and control carbon dioxide in the global atmosphere? Only with such an effort will it be possible to predict how weathering rates in the “Critical Zone”[National Research Council Committee on Basic Research Opportunities in the Earth Sciences, 2001] (Figure 2) respond to climatic, tectonic, and anthropogenic forcings over all temporal and spatial scales. Such an initiative is proposed, described at present as the Weathering System Science Consortium (WSSC).Input for its future development is sought from the geosciences community (http://www.wssc. psu.edu/).