Exploring geochemical controls on weathering and erosion of convex hillslopes: Beyond the empirical regolith production function

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Landscape curvature evolves in response to physical, chemical, and biological influences that cannot yet be quantified in models. Nonetheless, the simplest models predict the existence of equilibrium hillslope profiles. Here, we develop a model describing steady-state regolith production caused by mineral dissolution on hillslopes which have attained an equilibrium parabolic profile. When the hillslope lowers at a constant rate, the rate of chemical weathering is highest at the ridgetop where curvature is highest and the ridge develops the thickest regolith. This result derives from inclusion of all the terms in the mathematical definition of curvature. Including these terms shows that the curvature of a parabolic hillslope profile varies with distance from the ridge. The hillslope model (meter-scale) is similar to models of weathering rind formation (centimeter-scale) where curvature-driven solute transport causes development of the thickest rinds at highly curved clast corners. At the clast scale, models fit observations. Here, we similarly explore model predictions of the effect of curvature at the hillslope scale. The hillslope model shows that when erosion rates are small and vertical porefluid infiltration is moderate, the hill weathers at both ridge and valley in the erosive transport-limited regime. For this regime, the reacting mineral is weathered away before it reaches the land surface: in other words, the model predicts completely developed element-depth profiles at both ridge and valley. In contrast, when the erosion rate increases or porefluid velocity decreases, denudation occurs in the weathering-limited regime. In this regime, the reacting mineral does not weather away before it reaches the land surface and simulations predict incompletely developed profiles at both ridge and valley. These predictions are broadly consistent with observations of completely developed element-depth profiles along hillslopes denuding under erosive transport-limitation but incompletely developed profiles along hillslopes denuding under weathering limitation in some field settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1793-1807
Number of pages15
JournalEarth Surface Processes and Landforms
Issue number15
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)

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