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

Applicant Egli Markus
Number 146839
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Geographisches Institut Universität Zürich
Institution of higher education University of Zurich - ZH
Main discipline Pedology
Start/End 01.09.2013 - 30.04.2016
Approved amount 154'277.00
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All Disciplines (2)

Discipline
Pedology
Geomorphology

Keywords (4)

erosion; climate; soils; weathering

Lay Summary (German)

Lead
Mit tauendem Permafrost gehen veränderte thermische und hydrologische Bedingungen in Böden einher und das System Boden entfernt sich immer mehr von den ursprünglichen Quasi-Gleichgewichtsbedingungen. Wie werden nun dadurch die chemische Verwitterung und Bodenerosion beeinflusst?
Lay summary

Mit zunehmenden Temperaturen taut auch der Permafrost im hochalpinen Raum. Dies führt zu veränderten thermischen und hydrologischen Bedingungen in Böden. Es ist folglich anzunehmen, dass eine Klimaänderung zu markanten Änderungen bei der chemischen und physikalischen (ganz speziell Bodenerosion) Verwitterung führen wird. Die Untersuchungen haben nun zum Ziel, die Erosionsraten und Raten der chemischen Verwitterung hochalpiner Böden abzuschätzen. Zwei Standorttypen werden dabei berücksichtigt: a) mit und b) ohne Permafrost. Folgenden Forschungsfragen wird nachgegangen: i) Sind Unterschiede in Bezug auf die Bodenerosion an Standorten mit bzw. ohne Permafrost erkennbar  ii) Verändert sich die chemische Verwitterung durch das Abschmelzen des Permafrosts? iii) Sind die Vorräte an organischem Kohlenstoff wirklich Permafrost-Standorten? (Diese Frage ist deshalb wichtig, weil alpine Böden oftmals verschiedene Kalt- und Warmphasen durchlaufen haben) Wie unterscheiden sich die Eigenschaften der organischen Materie in den Böden? Welche potentiellen Auswirkungen könnte eine Klimaerwärmung mit sich bringen?

Ein innovativer Aspekt dieser Untersuchung besteht darin, dass die Verwitterungs- und Erosionsmechanismen mit einem multi-methodologischen Vorgehen angegangen werden. Ein Vergleich der Ergebnisse mit diesen Methoden wird eine bessere Datenabsicherung und Interpretation der Resultate ermöglichen. Zudem werden neue Methoden zum ersten Mal im hochalpinen Raum zum Einsatz gelangen. Darunter sind: die Bestimmung der langfristigen Erosionsraten mittels meteorischem 10Be, Bestimmung der Erosionsraten auf einer kurzen Zeitskala mittels 137Cs und Pu Isotopen, C-14 Datierung der stabilen bodenorganischen Substanz, etc. Die erwarteten Resultate werden zu einem besseren Prozessverständnis in einem zunehmendem Zustand des Ungleichgewichts hochalpiner Böden beitragen.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 29.04.2013

Lay Summary (English)

Lead
With permafrost thawing, erosion and chemical weathering processes in alpine soils will take place under changed thermal and hydrological conditions. The soils system is disconnecting more and more from quasi-equilibrium conditions. What would now be the effect of such a change?
Lay summary

With increasing temperatures, permafrost is continuously thawing. This will lead in future to different thermal and hydrological conditions in soils of cold regions. Therefore, climate change will cause a marked change in weathering and erosion conditions in high Alpine areas. The investigations aim at estimating denudation/weathering rates and short- and long-term erosion of high Alpine soils. Two types of sites will be considered: a) with and b) without permafrost. The following research question arose: i) Are different erosion effects (short- to long-term) recognisable at sites with or without permafrost? ii) Do chemical weathering processes differ? iii) Are the soil organic matter (SOM) stocks at sites that actually are influenced by permafrost really higher? iv) Are the SOM characteristics and ages of fractions at such sites different to sites having no permafrost? v) What could be the potential effects of a climate warming?

An innovative aspect is that chemical weathering and 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 (long-term erosion rates derived from meteoric 10Be; short-term erosion rates determined using 137Cs and Pu isotopes, 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 insights will lead to a better understanding of the processes of high mountain soils and are a further step towards deciphering processes with increasing system disequilibria.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 29.04.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Name Institute

Publications

Publication
Soil geomorphology and frozen ground conditions at a subalpine talus slope having permafrost in the eastern Swiss Alps
Kneisel Christof, Emmert Adrian, Polich Pascale, Zollinger Barbara, Egli Markus (2015), Soil geomorphology and frozen ground conditions at a subalpine talus slope having permafrost in the eastern Swiss Alps, in Catena, 133, 107-118.
The effect of permafrost on time-split soil erosion using radionuclides (137Cs, 239+240Pu, meteoric 10Be) and stable isotopes (δ13C) in the eastern Swiss Alps
Zollinger Barbara, Alewell Christine, Kneisel Christof, Meusburger Katrin, Brandová Dagmar, Kubik Peter, Schaller Mirjam, Ketterer Michael, Egli Markus (2015), The effect of permafrost on time-split soil erosion using radionuclides (137Cs, 239+240Pu, meteoric 10Be) and stable isotopes (δ13C) in the eastern Swiss Alps, in Journal of Soils and Sediments, 15, 1400-1419.
Black carbon contributes to organic matter in young soils in the Morteratsch proglacial area (Switzerland)
Eckmeier Eileen, Mavris Christian, Krebs Rolf, Pichler Barbara, Egli Markus (2013), Black carbon contributes to organic matter in young soils in the Morteratsch proglacial area (Switzerland), in Biogeosciences, 10, 1265-1274.
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, Ivy-Ochs Susan, Schmidt Michael, 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.

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
Institute of Environmental Geosciences, University of Basel Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Research Infrastructure
Institut für Geowissenschaften, Universität Tübingen, 72074 Tuebingen Germany (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Chemistry and Biochemistry Northern Arizona Universit United States of America (North America)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Research Infrastructure
Geographisches Institut, Physische Geographie, Universität Würzburg, Am Hubland, 97074 Würzburg Germany (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Research Infrastructure
- Exchange of personnel

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
Annual Conference of the Swiss Soil Science Society Talk given at a conference Bodenbildung und Bodenerosion in den Alpen im Gleichgewicht? 05.02.2015 Basel, Switzerland Egli Markus;
Seminar at Laboratory of Hydrology and Geochemistry of Strasbourg Individual talk Soil formation rates on silicate parent material in alpine environments: Different approaches – different results? 05.02.2015 Strasbourg, France Egli Markus;
Seminar at University of Lausanne Individual talk Time-split rates of soil formation and erosion: techniques and application 13.11.2014 Lausanne, Switzerland Egli Markus;
Biogeochemical Processes at Air-Soil-Water Interfaces and Environmental Protection Talk given at a conference Air-Soil-Interfaces and the Environmental Protection of Mountain Areas 23.06.2014 Imola, Italy Egli Markus;
EGU General Assembly (Kommentar: Das Projekt dauerte 4 Jahre ... Präsentationen vor April 2013 können nicht eingegeben werden!! Teilnahme an EGU war 2013.) Poster The effect of permafrost on soil erosion using meteoric 10Be, 137Cs and 239+240Pu in the Eastern Swiss Alps 10.04.2014 Wien, Austria Ivy-Ochs Susan; Zollinger Barbara; Alewell Christine; Kneisel Christof; Egli Markus;
Seminar at University of Wroclaw Individual talk Fast, faster the fastest: the race between soil formation and erosion 26.03.2014 Wroclaw, Poland Egli Markus;
BGS Jahrestagung Poster The effect of permafrost on time-split soil erosion using radionuclides (137Cs, 239+240Pu, meteoric 10Be) in the Swiss Alps 13.02.2014 Changins, Switzerland Zollinger Barbara;


Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
Print (books, brochures, leaflets) Laboratory of Ion Beam Physics Annual Report German-speaking Switzerland International 2013

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
134479 Influence of permafrost on chemical weathering and erosion in high Alpine areas 01.09.2011 Project funding (Div. I-III)
117568 Initial stages of soil and clay mineral formation 01.04.2008 Project funding (Div. I-III)
147421 Rock boulders as indicators of soil erosion (RAISE) 01.02.2013 International short research visits

Abstract

This proposal applies for a continuation of the snf project 200021M_134479/1 that was financed for 2 years (for a PhD thesis). 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. Due to the often complex evolution of high-Alpine soils (warmer period during the climate optimum about 5 - 8 ky BP) and subsequent periodic presence of permafrost the following research question arose: i) Are different erosion effects (short- to long-term) recognisable at sites with or without permafrost (present-day)? ii) Do chemical weathering processes differ? iii) Are the SOM stocks at sites that actually are influenced by permafrost really higher? iv) Are the SOM characteristics and ages of fractions at such sites different to sites having no permafrost? v) What could be the potential effects of a climate warming? Alpine sites in the Engadine are investigated: the Albula region (2 areas) and the upper Val Bever (4 areas). The main objectives include: 1) the determination of A) long-term soil erosion rates using two different techniques: i) in situ produced cosmogenic 10Be in soil sections and ii) the inventory of meteoric 10Be in soils. B) Short-term erosion rates will be estimated using 137Cs as tracer. As a methodological addition, also 240Pu/239Pu and 241Pu/239Pu atom ratios as an isotopic tracer for the quantification of soil erosion and ?13C as a qualitative soil erosion indicator are and will be analysed.2) the evaluation of chemical weathering mechanisms: Chemical weathering will be determined using the technique of immobile elements and rare earth elements (REE). 3) determination of organic matter stocks in soil and characterisation and 14C dating of labile and stable (resistant to a H2O2 treatment) and physical 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 and enables also a comparison between short-term and long-term process rates. Furthermore, novel or very recently developed methods (erosion rates determined by meteoric 10Be using a non-steady-state approach, Pu isotopes and ?13C; 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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