Abstract

Weathering of terrestrial Ca- and Mg-bearing silicate minerals is an important control on atmospheric CO2 on geological time scales. It has been determined that vascular plants can accelerate mineral weathering as compared to non-vascular plants or non-vegetated surfaces. This indicates that the evolution of vascular plants, particularly the deep-rooted trees, may play a large role in the long-term carbon cycle and its regulation of the atmosphere. The weathering impact of the separate evolutionary appearances of the gymnosperms in the Palaeozoic and the angiosperms in the Mesozoic, and the shifting ecological dominance from the former to the latter, is currently poorly understood. This study aims to contribute to our understanding of the quantitative weathering rates of the angiosperms and gymnosperms by examining plant-mineral interactions of the two tree types in a temperate field setting underlain by granodiorite. Results include determinations of soil element fluxes and etching of minerals. The observed root-mineral interactions resulted in only slightly more weathering of Ca-bearing minerals by the angiosperms. However, we observed significantly more weathering of the Mg-bearing minerals by the gymnosperms. These results suggest that increasing dominance of the angiosperms in forests in the Mesozoic may have had a small or neutral impact on accelerating overall mineral weathering and regulating CO2, but that this impact may be lithology-dependent.

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