Weathering Incongruence in Mountainous Mediterranean Climates Recorded by Stream Lithium Isotope Ratios

Jon K. Golla, Julien Bouchez, Marie L. Kuessner, Jennifer L. Druhan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Lithium isotope ratios (δ7Li) of rivers are increasingly serving as a diagnostic of the balance between chemical and physical weathering contributions to overall landscape denudation rates. Here, we show that intermediate weathering intensities and highly enriched stream δ7Li values typically associated with lowland floodplains can also describe small upland watersheds subject to cool, wet climates. This behavior is revealed by stream δ7Li between +22.4 and +23.5‰ within a Critical Zone observatory located in the Cévennes region of southern France, where dilute stream solute concentrations and significant atmospheric deposition otherwise mask evidence of incongruence. The water-rock reaction pathways underlying this behavior are quantified through a multicomponent, isotope-enabled reactive transport model. Using geochemical characterization of soil profiles, bedrock, and long-term stream samples as constraints, we evolve the simulation from an initially unweathered granite to a steady state weathering profile which reflects the balance between (a) fluid infiltration and drainage and (b) bedrock uplift and soil erosion. Enriched stream δ7Li occurs because Li is strongly incorporated into actively precipitating secondary clay phases beyond what prior laboratory experiments have suggested. Chemical weathering incongruence is maintained despite relatively slow reaction rates and moderate clay accumulation due to a combination of two factors. First, reactive primary mineral phases persist across the weathering profile and effectively “shield” the secondary clays from resolubilization due to their greater solubility. Second, the clays accumulating in the near-surface profile are relatively mature weathering byproducts. These factors promote characteristically low total dissolved solute export from the catchment despite significant input of exogenous dust.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2023JF007359
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2024


  • critical zone
  • lithium isotopes
  • reactive transport
  • weathering

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Earth-Surface Processes


Dive into the research topics of 'Weathering Incongruence in Mountainous Mediterranean Climates Recorded by Stream Lithium Isotope Ratios'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this