Porosity, the void space in rock, was conventionally thought to be produced when water flows through the rock, thus resulting in minerals chemically dissolving. Because mountain watershed provides large reservoirs of water, the new findings are relevant to water resource management throughout the U.S.
"It's important to understand what is going on in the subsurface layer. It has enormous capacity to store water. In mountain landscapes, the saprolite may be the only thing keeping forests alive during times of drought," says Cliff Riebe, an associate professor in UW's Department of Geology and Geophysics. "This has been known for a while. What we don't know is 'How does the storage space get produced?' Saprolite is difficult to access. You have to dig down under the soil. It's rarely been studied. Understanding this layer between the soil and rock is important."
Saprolite - Riebe - Refers - Rock - Zone
Saprolite, which Riebe refers to as "rotten rock," is the zone of weathered rock that retains the relative positions of mineral grains of the parent bedrock and lies between the layer of soil and harder rock underneath.
Riebe was corresponding author of a paper, titled "Porosity Production in Weathered Rock: Where Volumetric Strain Dominates over Chemical Mass Loss," which was published today (Sept. 18) in Science Advances, an offspring publication of Science. The online journal publishes significant, innovative original research that advances the frontiers of science and extends the standards of excellence established by Science.
Jorden - Hayes - PhD - Graduate - UW
Jorden Hayes, a former Ph.D. graduate from UW and now an assistant professor of earth sciences at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa., was the paper's lead author. Contributing writers included Steve Holbrook, a former UW professor of geology and geophysics and now a professor and department head at Virginia Tech University; Brady Flinchum, who was a Ph.D. student at UW at the time the research was conducted; and Peter Hartsough,...
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