Using chemical tracers in hillslope soils to estimate the importance of chemical denudation under conditions of downslope sediment transport

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Abstract

[1] We present a model of hillslope soils that couples the evolution of topography, soil thickness, and the concentration of constituent soil phases, defined as unique components of the soil with collective mass equal to the total soil mass. The model includes both sediment transport and chemical denudation. A simplified two-phase model is developed; the two phases are a chemically immobile phase, which has far lower solubility than the bulk soil and is not removed through chemical weathering (for example, zircon grains), and a chemically mobile phase that may be removed from the system through chemical weathering. Chemical denudation rates in hillslope soils can be measured using the concentration of immobile elements, but the enrichment of these immobile elements is influenced by spatial variations in chemical denudation rates and spatial variations in the chemical composition of a soil's parent material. These considerations cloud the use of elemental depletion factors and cosmogenic nuclide-based total denudation rates used to identify the relationship between physical erosion and chemical weathering if these techniques do not account for downslope sediment transport. On hillslopes where chemical denudation rates vary in space, estimates of chemical denudation using techniques that do not account for downslope sediment transport and spatial variations in chemical denudation rates may be adequate where the chemical denudation rate is a significant fraction of the total denudation rate but are inadequate in regions where chemical weathering rates are small compared to the total denudation rate. We also examine relationships between transient mechanical and chemical denudation rates. Soil particle residence times may affect chemical weathering rates, and the relationship between total landscape-lowering rates and soil particle residence times can thus be quantified.

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