PerspectiveGeochemistry

Limits of Soil Production?

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Science  07 Feb 2014:
Vol. 343, Issue 6171, pp. 617-618
DOI: 10.1126/science.1250173

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Summary

Rocky mountain ranges may appear static but are constantly in motion. Tectonic forces push the mountains up, while physical and chemical processes break rocks down to sediment that is transported to river plains and ultimately to the sea. This cycle is thought to regulate global climate over million-year time scales (1) while also responding to climate forcing itself (2). It remains unclear whether mountain uplift drives climate change, or whether climatic cooling drives uplift by causing faster erosion (3). On page 637 of this issue, Larsen et al. (4) provide data that help to quantify these controls on mountain building, reporting faster sediment production rates and higher chemical weathering rates than previously measured. Their results also provide key insights into soil sustainability over shorter time scales (5).