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Keywords:

  • root throw;
  • bioturbation;
  • rock-fragment veneer;
  • sediment yield;
  • pit/mound complex;
  • hillslope stability

Abstract

Rock veneers stabilize hillslope surfaces, occur especially in areas of immature soil, and form through a variety of process sets that includes root throw. Near Westcliffe, Colorado, USA, data were collected from a 20 × 500 m transect on the east slope of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Ages of pit/mound complexes with rock fragments exposed at the surface by root throw ranged from recent (freshly toppled tree) to unknown (complete tree decay). Calculations based on dimensions of the pit/mound complexes, estimated time of tree toppling, sizes of exposed rock fragments, and percentage rock covers at pit/mound complexes, as well as within the transect area, indicate that recent rates of root throw have resulted in only partial rock veneering since late Pleistocene deglaciation. Weathering of rock fragments prevents development of an extensive rock veneer and causes a balance, achieved within an estimated 700 years, between the rates of rock-fragment exposure by root throw and clast disintegration by chemical reduction. The estimated rate of rock-fragment reduction accounts for part of the fluvial sediment yields observed for forested subalpine areas of western North America. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.