Climate controls on coupled processes of chemical weathering, bioturbation, and sediment transport across hillslopes

A. A. Wackett, K. Yoo, R. Amundson, Arjun Heimsath, N. A. Jelinski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Most hillslope studies examining the interplay between climate and earth surface processes tend to be biased towards eroding parts of landscapes. This limitation makes it difficult to assess how entire upland landscapes, which are mosaics of eroding and depositional areas, evolve physio-chemically as a function of climate. Here we combine new soil geochemical data and published 10Be-derived soil production rates to estimate variations in chemical weathering across two eroding-to-depositional hillslopes spanning a climate gradient in southeastern Australia. At the warmer and wetter Nunnock River (NR) site, rates of total soil (–3 to –14 g m-2 yr-1; negative sign indicates mass loss) and saprolite (–18 to –32 g m-2 yr-1) chemical weathering are uniform across the hillslope transect. Alternatively, the drier hillslope at Frog's Hollow (FH) is characterized by contrasting weathering patterns in eroding soils (–30 to –53 g m-2 yr-1) vs. depositional soils (+91 g m-2 yr-1; positive sign indicates mass addition). This difference partly reflects mineral grain size sorting as a result of upslope bioturbation coupled with water-driven soil erosion, as well as greater vegetative productivity in moister depositional soils. Both of these processes are magnified in the drier climate. The data reveal the importance of linking the erosion–deposition continuum in hillslope weathering studies in order to fully capture the coupled roles of biota and erosion in driving the physical and chemical evolution of hillslopes. Our findings also highlight the potential limitations of applying current weathering models to landscapes where particle-sorting erosion processes are active.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1575-1590
Number of pages16
JournalEarth Surface Processes and Landforms
Issue number8
StatePublished - Jun 30 2018


  • bioturbation
  • chemical weathering
  • grain size sorting
  • hillslope processes
  • hillslope soils
  • overland flow

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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