Abstract

The origin of vascular land plants in the Silurian and their subsequent diversification have had a major effect on mineral weathering through geologic tune. The presence of vascular plants reduces the stability of soil minerals through a net export of ions from soil waters and through the release of complexing organic acids by root mycorrhizae. Additional factors that dictate the nature of plant-induced mineral weathering are (1) the differences in nutrient dynamics between evergreen and deciduous species; (2) the role of specific nutrient sinks (biomass storage and secondary soil mineralization) and outputs (runoff, etc.) in plant ecosystems; and (3) the effect of long- and short-term ecosystem disturbances. First-order increases in overall mineral weathering probably took place in the middle Paleozoic and early Tertiary, following the initial colonization and diversification of land plants and the radiation of deciduous angiospenns. Second-order fluctuations would typify time intervals where paleoecosystem disturbances were maximized, such as periods of climatic instability.

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