Biological weathering in the terrestrial system: An evolutionary perspective

Dragos G. Zaharescu, Carmen I. Burghelea, Katerina M Dontsova, Christopher T. Reinhard, Jon Chorover, Rebecca Lybrand

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

16 Scopus citations


Weathering is the process by which a solid breaks up into its building blocks when in thermodynamic disequilibrium with the surrounding environment. Weathering plays an important role in the formation of environments that can support life, including human life. It provides long-term control on nutrient availability in natural and agricultural ecosystems through release of lithogenic elements and formation of secondary minerals that allow storage of nutrients in soils. Life itself, however, has a profound effect on weathering processes. Absence of oxidants characterized the weathering environment on early Earth (4.6-2.4 Ga), when CO2 released during volcanic activity was the principal driver of weathering processes. The advent of photosynthesis in the Archean and resulting biogenic flux of O2 to the atmosphere, ultimately shifted weathering towards oxidation, influencing the mineral landscape and the cycles of nutrients that supported an evolving biosphere. Land colonization by vascular plants in the early Phanerozoic and evolution of mycorrhizal symbiosis enhanced weathering by selectively mining minerals and redistributing nutrients across plant and fungi in the ecosystem. Development of complex human societies and the ever-increasing influence people exert on the environment further impact weathering and nutrient cycling, both directly and indirectly.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationBiogeochemical Cycles
Subtitle of host publicationEcological Drivers and Environmental Impact
Number of pages30
ISBN (Electronic)9781119413332
ISBN (Print)9781119413301
StatePublished - Mar 27 2020


  • Abiotic factors
  • Biological weathering
  • Biotic factors
  • Great oxidation event
  • Oxidative weathering
  • Terrestrial system

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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