Lithium, magnesium and silicon isotope behaviour accompanying weathering in a basaltic soil and pore water profile in Iceland

Philip A.E. Pogge von Strandmann*, Sophie Opfergelt, Yi Jen Lai, Bergur Sigfússon, Sigurur R. Gislason, Kevin W. Burton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

139 Citations (Scopus)


This study presents lithium, magnesium and silicon isotope ratios from pore waters and soils from a well-characterised Histic Andosol in south-west Iceland. The soil δ 7Li composition ranges between values slightly lighter than basalt, to those that are much heavier (-1.1% to +26.8%), and are possibly influenced by sea salt. In contrast, precipitation-corrected dissolved (pore water) δ 7Li values (1.8-10.0%) appear to reflect preferential adsorption of 6Li onto secondary minerals, where allophane supersaturation results in high δ 7Li values. Conversely low δ 7Li together with high [Li] are probably due to destabilisation of allophane at low pH, and thus desorption of Li. When compared to Icelandic river values, it would appear that soil pore waters reflect an intermediate isotope composition between basalts and river waters. Precipitation corrected pore water Mg isotope ratios (δ 26Mg) range between -0.46% and -0.12%, and correlate with the amount of heavy Mg adsorbed onto the soil exchange complex. Silicon isotopes in the soils are isotopically lighter (δ 30Si=-0.91% to -0.53%) than basalt (-0.29%), whereas pore waters are heavier (+0.13% to +1.03%). Soil δ 30Si values show a clear evolution between unweathered basalt and a hypothetical isotopically light endmember representing secondary minerals. Dissolved Si isotopes also respond to chemical weathering processes, and show that isotopically heavy δ 30Si corresponds to high cation fluxes and high secondary mineral formation. However, comparison of all these proposed isotopic weathering tracers suggests that they respond differently to the same chemical weathering conditions. This indicates a differing behaviour during secondary mineral neoformation or adsorption depending on whether the incorporated element is a major or trace constituent. In turn, this behaviour can potentially yield important information on secondary mineral behaviour and destabilisation, and thus on the chemical weathering processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-23
Number of pages13
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
PPvS was funded by NERC Grant NER/C510983/1 and a NERC Research Fellowship . SO is funded by the “ Fonds National de la Recherche Scientifique ” (Belgium) and acknowledges funding from FSR (Fonds Special de Recherche, UCL, Belgium) . This manuscript has greatly benefitted from reviews by four anonymous reviewers, and editing by Peter deMenocal.

Other keywords

  • Chemical weathering
  • Isotope fractionation
  • Pore waters
  • Secondary minerals
  • Soils


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