Weathering and vegetation effects in early stages of soil formation

Jonathan D. Phillips, Alice V. Turkington, Daniel A. Marion

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


Bedrock surfaces in the Ouachita Mountains, Arkansas, exposed by spillway construction and which had not previously been subjected to surface weathering environments, developed 15-20 cm thick soil covers in less than three decades. All open bedrock joints showed evidence of weathering and biological activity. Rock surfaces and fragments also showed evidence of significant weathering alteration. The results suggest a soil production function whereby weathering and increases in thickness are initially rapid. The rapid initial rate (5 to 10 mm year- 1) is facilitated by a weathering-favorable regional climate, local topography favoring moisture and sediment accumulation, and aggressive vegetation colonization. The ages of the trees on the bedrock benches suggests that a short period (< 10 years) of pedogenic site preparation is necessary before trees can become established. Initial chemical weathering within newly-exposed rock fractures in resistant sandstone strata and chemical weathering of weak shale layers, coupled with accumulation of organic and mineral debris in fractures and microtopographic depressions facilitates plant establishment, which accelerates local weathering rates.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-28
Number of pages8
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2008

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project was supported by U.S.D.A. Forest Service Cooperative grant SRS 01-CA-11330124516. Outstanding field assistance was provided by Linda Martin, Taro Futamura, and “Ouachita John” Davenport.


  • Feedbacks
  • Ouachita Mountains
  • Pedogenesis
  • Regolith
  • Vegetation
  • Weathering

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth-Surface Processes


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