Dust provides ecosystem-sustaining nutrients to landscapes underlain by intensively weathered soils. Here we show that dust may also be crucial in montane forest ecosystems, dominating nutrient budgets despite continuous replacement of depleted soils with fresh bedrock via erosion. Strontium and neodymium isotopes in modern dust show that Asian sources contribute 18-45% of dust deposition across our Sierra Nevada, California study sites. The remaining dust originates regionally from the nearby Central Valley. Measured dust fluxes are greater than or equal to modern erosional outputs from hillslopes to channels, and account for 10-20% of estimated millennial-average inputs of bedrock P. Our results demonstrate that exogenic dust can drive the evolution of nutrient budgets in montane ecosystems, with implications for predicting forest response to changes in climate and land use.
Aciego, S. M., Riebe, C. S., Hart, S. C., Blakowski, M. A., Carey, C. J., Aarons, S. M., Dove, N. C., Botthoff, J. K., Sims, K. W. W., Aronson, E. L. (2017) Dust outpaces bedrock in nutrient supply to montane forest ecosystems. Nature Communications, V.8, article number:14800. DOI: 10.1038/ncomms14800This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1541047. Opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the authors and do not reflect the views of the NSF.