In this paper we characterized several weathering profiles developed on granitoid rocks in the Sila Massif upland (Calabria, southern Italy), integrating detailed macro- and micromorphological observations with physico-mechanical field tests and petrographic, mineralogical and geochemical analyses. We focused our attention on the main weathering and pedogenetic processes, trying to understand apparent discrepancies between weathering grade classes based on field description and geomechanical properties, and two common weathering indices, such as the micropetrographic index (Ip) and the chemical index of alteration (CIA). Our results showed that sericite on plagioclase and biotite chloritization, that represent inherited features formed during late-stage hydrothermal alteration of granitoid rocks, may cause an overestimation of the real degree of weathering of primary mineral grains under meteoric conditions, especially in lower weathering grade classes. Moreover, the frequent identification of Fe-Mn oxides and clay coatings of illuvial origin (rather than or in addition to those formed in situ), both at the macro- and microscale, may also explain an overestimation of the weathering degree with respect to field-based classifications. Finally, some apparent inconsistencies between field geomechanical responses and chemical weathering were interpreted as related to physical weathering processes (cryoclastism and thermoclastism), that lead to rock breakdown even when chemical weathering is not well developed. Hence, our study showed that particular caution is needed for evaluating weathering grades, because traditional field and geochemical-petrographic tools may be biased by inherited hydrothermal alteration, physical weathering and illuvial processes. On the basis of chronological constraints to soil formation obtained from a 42 ka-old volcanic input (mixed to granite parent materials) detected in the soil cover of the Sila Massif upland, a first attempt to estimate soil formation rates was achieved for different depths of corresponding weathering profile zones. Soil formation rates ranged from 0.01-0.07 mm a-1 for A and Bw horizons (weathering class VI) to 0.04-0.36 mm a-1 for the underlying saprolite (C and Cr layers; class V). By comparing these results with the corresponding erosion rates available in the literature for the study area, that range from <0.01-0.05 to 0.10-0.21 mm a-1, we suggest that the upland landscape of the Sila Massif is close to steady-state conditions between weathering and erosive processes.

Weathering profiles in granitoid rocks of the Sila Massif uplands, Calabria, southern Italy: new insights into their formation processes and rates

SCARCIGLIA, Fabio;CRITELLI, Salvatore;MUTO, Francesco;Perri, F.
2016-01-01

Abstract

In this paper we characterized several weathering profiles developed on granitoid rocks in the Sila Massif upland (Calabria, southern Italy), integrating detailed macro- and micromorphological observations with physico-mechanical field tests and petrographic, mineralogical and geochemical analyses. We focused our attention on the main weathering and pedogenetic processes, trying to understand apparent discrepancies between weathering grade classes based on field description and geomechanical properties, and two common weathering indices, such as the micropetrographic index (Ip) and the chemical index of alteration (CIA). Our results showed that sericite on plagioclase and biotite chloritization, that represent inherited features formed during late-stage hydrothermal alteration of granitoid rocks, may cause an overestimation of the real degree of weathering of primary mineral grains under meteoric conditions, especially in lower weathering grade classes. Moreover, the frequent identification of Fe-Mn oxides and clay coatings of illuvial origin (rather than or in addition to those formed in situ), both at the macro- and microscale, may also explain an overestimation of the weathering degree with respect to field-based classifications. Finally, some apparent inconsistencies between field geomechanical responses and chemical weathering were interpreted as related to physical weathering processes (cryoclastism and thermoclastism), that lead to rock breakdown even when chemical weathering is not well developed. Hence, our study showed that particular caution is needed for evaluating weathering grades, because traditional field and geochemical-petrographic tools may be biased by inherited hydrothermal alteration, physical weathering and illuvial processes. On the basis of chronological constraints to soil formation obtained from a 42 ka-old volcanic input (mixed to granite parent materials) detected in the soil cover of the Sila Massif upland, a first attempt to estimate soil formation rates was achieved for different depths of corresponding weathering profile zones. Soil formation rates ranged from 0.01-0.07 mm a-1 for A and Bw horizons (weathering class VI) to 0.04-0.36 mm a-1 for the underlying saprolite (C and Cr layers; class V). By comparing these results with the corresponding erosion rates available in the literature for the study area, that range from <0.01-0.05 to 0.10-0.21 mm a-1, we suggest that the upland landscape of the Sila Massif is close to steady-state conditions between weathering and erosive processes.
2016
Weathering features; Weathering processes; Soil formation rates
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Descrizione: This is the peer reviewed version of the article, which has been published in final form at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.sedgeo.2016.01.015
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/20.500.11770/144105
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