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Influence of permafrost on chemical weathering and erosion in high Alpine areas

Applicant Egli Markus
Number 134479
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Geographisches Institut Universität Zürich
Institution of higher education University of Zurich - ZH
Main discipline Geomorphology
Start/End 01.09.2011 - 31.08.2013
Approved amount 126'946.00
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All Disciplines (2)

Discipline
Geomorphology
Pedology

Keywords (5)

geomorphology; weathering; soils; climate; erosion

Lay Summary (English)

Lead
Lay summary
With increasing temperatures, permafrost is continuously thawing. This will lead in future to different thermal and hydrological conditions in the soil and regolith in cold regions. Therefore, climate change is assumed to cause a marked change in weathering conditions in high Alpine areas. Long-term chemical weathering and physical erosion rates are interrelated processes. In order to better understand landscape response to climate change, it is important to quantify both processes. The planned investigations generally aim at the estimate of element denudation/weathering rates and short- and long-term erosion of high Swiss Alpine soils (Upper Engadine: Albula and Val Bever). Both types of sites will be considered: a) with and b) without permafrost. The main objectives include
1) the evaluation of chemical weathering mechanisms using traceser such as immobile elements and Sr-isotopes
2) the determination of soil erosion rates (long-term) using two different techniques: a) in situ produced cosmogenic 10Be in soil sections and b) the inventory of meteoric 10Be in soils. Short-term erosion rates will be estimated using 137Cs as tracer.
3) determination of organic matter stocks in soil and characterisation and 14C dating of labile and stable (resistant to a H2O2 treatment) organic matter fractions.
4) Mapping of present day permafrost distribution and monitoring of near-surface and ground surface temperatures is essential for the understanding and prediction of the weathering behaviour of high Alpine regions.
An important and innovative aspect is that chemical weathering and particularly erosion rates will be characterised using a multi-method approach. A cross-check of all the methods used will allow an extended interpretation and mutual control of the results. Furthermore, novel or very recently developed methods (erosion rates determined by meteoric 10Be using a non-steady-state approach; spatial on-site detection and characterisation of permafrost using a highly novel 3-D geophysical approach, 14C dating of stable (H2O2-resistant) soil organic matter, etc.) will be applied for the first time in high Alpine regions. The expected new insights will lead to a better understanding of the processes of high mountain soils and are a further step towards improving climate-related modelling of fast warming scenarios and increasing system disequilibria.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Name Institute

Publications

Publication
Effect of permafrost on the formation of soil organic carbon pools and their physical–chemical properties in the Eastern Swiss Alps
Zollinger Barbara, Alewell Christine, Kneisel. Christof, Meusburger Katrin, Gärtner Holger, Brandová Dagmar, Iby-Ochs Susan, Michael W.I. Schmidt, Egli Markus (2013), Effect of permafrost on the formation of soil organic carbon pools and their physical–chemical properties in the Eastern Swiss Alps, in Catena, 110, 70-85.
Black carbon contributes to organic matter in young soils in the 1 Morteratsch proglacial area (Switzerland)
Eckmeier Eileen, Mavris Christian, Pichler Barbara, Krebs Rolf, Egli Markus (2013), Black carbon contributes to organic matter in young soils in the 1 Morteratsch proglacial area (Switzerland), in Biogeosciences, 10, 1265-1274.
Soil organic carbon and nitrogen accumulation rates in cold and alpine environments over 1 Ma
Egli Markus, Favilli Filippo, Krebs Rolf, Pichler Barbara, Dahms Dennis (2012), Soil organic carbon and nitrogen accumulation rates in cold and alpine environments over 1 Ma, in Geoderma, 183-184, 109-123.

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
EGU Vienna 09.04.2013 Vienna
4th International Congress Eurosoil 2012 04.07.2012 Bari (Italien)
EGU Vienna 23.04.2012 Wien


Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
124380 Constructing a temporal framework for landscape dynamics in the eastern Swiss Alps during the Lateglacial and early Holocene 01.04.2009 Project funding (Div. I-III)
146839 Influence of permafrost on chemical weathering and erosion in high Alpine areas 01.09.2013 Project funding (Div. I-III)
117568 Initial stages of soil and clay mineral formation 01.04.2008 Project funding (Div. I-III)
162338 BERYLLIUM: Boulder Exhumation Rates (over 10^5 Years) in Low-gradient Landscapes In an Upland Mediterranean Area 01.04.2016 Project funding (Div. I-III)

Abstract

Chemical weathering of rocks is very important for the generation of soils, for the evolution of landscape, and as a main source of inorganic nutrients for plant growth and therefore for life. The factor climate is of growing interest with respect to landscape and consequently soil evolution. With increasing temperatures, permafrost is continuously thawing. This will lead in future to different thermal and hydrological conditions in the soil and regolith in cold regions. Therefore, climate change is assumed to cause a marked change in weathering conditions in high Alpine areas. Long-term chemical weathering and physical erosion rates are interrelated processes. In order to better understand landscape evolution, it is important to quantify both processes. The planned investigations generally aim at the estimate of element denudation/weathering rates and short- and long-term erosion of high Alpine soils and substrates. Both types of sites will be considered: a) with and b) without permafrost. Consequently, the study will focus on how weathering and erosion mechanisms are affected. High Alpine sites in the Engadine will be investigated: the Albula region (2 areas) and the upper Val Bever (6-8 areas). The main objectives include 1) the evaluation of chemical weathering mechanisms: Chemical weathering will be determined using the technique of immobile elements and rare earth elements (REE). In addition, Sr-isotopes measurements (87Sr/86Sr) or Ca/Sr ratios in soil extractions (acid digestible Sr; using HNO3) and spring water are useful tools to derive weathering intensities and mechanisms in the soils.2) the determination of soil erosion rates (long-term) using two different techniques: a) in situ produced cosmogenic 10Be in soil sections and b) the inventory of meteoric 10Be in soils. Short-term erosion rates will be estimated using 137Cs as tracer. 3) determination of organic matter stocks in soil and characterisation and 14C dating of labile and stable (resistant to a H2O2 treatment) organic matter fractions.4) Mapping of present day permafrost distribution and monitoring of near-surface and ground surface temperatures is essential for the understanding and prediction of the weathering behaviour of high Alpine regions. An important and innovative aspect is that chemical weathering and particularly erosion rates will be characterised using a multi-method approach. A cross-check of all the methods used will allow an extended interpretation and mutual control of the results. Furthermore, novel or very recently developed methods (erosion rates determined by meteoric 10Be using a non-steady-state approach; spatial on-site detection and characterisation of permafrost using a highly novel 3-D geophysical approach, 14C dating of stable (H2O2-resistant) soil organic matter, etc.) will be applied for the first time in high Alpine regions. The expected new insights will lead to a better understanding of the processes of high mountain soils and are a further step towards improving climate-related modelling of fast warming scenarios and increasing system disequilibria.The Department of Geography (University of Würzburg) has an outstanding knowledge for mapping the spatial distribution of permafrost in high Alpine regions. This institution has, furthermore, a long lasting experience in the Eastern Swiss Alps (Engadine, Val Bever, Val Muragl). Based already on past experiences, a collaboration will be most fruitful.
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