A detailed input-output study of a small forested watershed draining the Wissahickon Formation in the Piedmont of Maryland revealed that chemical solution is five times as effective in removing material as is mechanical erosion. Solution weathering removes 16.9 tons/sq mi/yr of material compared with 3.2 tons/sq mi/yr by mechanical erosion.
Plant activity during the growing season increased the concentration of silica, bicarbonate, calcium, and potassium, thus increasing total dissolved solids by one-third. Autumn leaf fall also caused a short-term increase of these ions.
Rainfall does not simply dilute floodwaters as the concentration of sulfate, potassium, and calcium increases whereas silica and bicarbonate decrease in concentration during a flood cycle. Our data suggest that during the first half of a flood cycle, both the flood water and the dissolved solids in it come from an area in and immediately adjacent to the flood plain.
The weathering model derived from our study suggests that on a long-term basis approximately one-half of the erosion of the Pond Branch watershed is caused by chemical solution of the silicate minerals kaolinite, vermiculite, biotite, and oligoclase. This contrasts to short-term ratio of solutional to mechanical weathering of five to one.