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CSDMS 2020: Linking Ecosphere and Geosphere

Are rate changes in biotic processes altering subsurface hydrologic partitioning in the Anthropocene?

Pamela Sullivan

Oregon State University, United States
Sharon Billings University of Kansas United States
Daniel Hirmas University of California Riverside United States
Li Li Pennsylvania State University United States
Alejandro Flores Boise State University United States
Hang Wen Pennsylvania State University United States
Caroline Nash Boise State University United States
Alejandro Cueve University of California Riverside United States
Xi Zhang University of Kentucky United States

The degree to which subsurface architecture – pores space and connectivity—fluctuates and/or evolves is largely ignored in predictions of how Earth’s critical zone can respond to changes in biotic processes (direct and indirect) in the Anthropocene. Specifically, changes in microbial carbon decomposition rates and root growth can influence the generation of macropores, whose porosity accounts for only ~2% of the subsurface but accounts for ~70% of water transmitted to depth. We argue that the community needs to consider that changes in the subsurface structure throttles the partitioning of water, and thus the fluxes of carbon, nutrients, and weathering products. Using empirical data and modeling we explore this connectivity between biotic processes (e.g., root growth, carbon turn over) and subsurface pore structure from the pedon to the continental scale, quantifying the impact of this interaction on stocks and fluxes of water and nutrients. We then examine how over longer time periods, this change in hydrologic partitioning can influence the depth to which reaction fronts propagate into the subsurface and the role in which these changes could influence the trajectory of landscape evolution.

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Of interest for:
  • Terrestrial Working Group
  • Hydrology Focus Research Group
  • Critical Zone Focus Research Group
  • Ecosystem Dynamics Focus Research Group