A mass-balance model to separate and quantify colloidal and solute redistributions in soil

Carleton R. Bern, Oliver A. Chadwick, Anthony S. Hartshorn, Lesego M. Khomo, Jon Chorover

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Studies of weathering and pedogenesis have long used calculations based upon low solubility index elements to determine mass gains and losses in open systems. One of the questions currently unanswered in these settings is the degree to which mass is transferred in solution (solutes) versus suspension (colloids). Here we show that differential mobility of the low solubility, high field strength (HFS) elements Ti and Zr can trace colloidal redistribution, and we present a model for distinguishing between mass transfer in suspension and solution. The model is tested on a well-differentiated granitic catena located in Kruger National Park, South Africa. Ti and Zr ratios from parent material, soil and colloidal material are substituted into a mixing equation to quantify colloidal movement. The results show zones of both colloid removal and augmentation along the catena. Colloidal losses of 110kgm-2 (-5% relative to parent material) are calculated for one eluviated soil profile. A downslope illuviated profile has gained 169kgm-2 (10%) colloidal material. Elemental losses by mobilization in true solution are ubiquitous across the catena, even in zones of colloidal accumulation, and range from 1418kgm-2 (-46%) for an eluviated profile to 195kgm-2 (-23%) at the bottom of the catena. Quantification of simultaneous mass transfers in solution and suspension provide greater specificity on processes within soils and across hillslopes. Additionally, because colloids include both HFS and other elements, the ability to quantify their redistribution has implications for standard calculations of soil mass balances using such index elements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)113-119
Number of pages7
JournalChemical Geology
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Mar 23 2011


  • Index element
  • Kruger National Park
  • Mass-balance
  • Mixing equation
  • Soil
  • Weathering

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


Dive into the research topics of 'A mass-balance model to separate and quantify colloidal and solute redistributions in soil'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this