Queen's University

Water-limited mineral weathering

Image: Limited zone of reaction under water limited conditions as shown in this electron micrograph. A carbonate rind (false-coloured in red) has formed where water was available. Earth’s shallow subsurface, or “critical zone,” is of fundamental importance for supporting terrestrial life and maintaining water quality. An important part of the critical zone is the water unsaturated region located nearest to the surface, where water and gases are transferred between the atmosphere and hydrosphere through abiotic and biotic processes. In my research, I investigate the fundamental chemical and physical controls on mineral-fluid reaction rates in water unsaturated media using a combination of experimental and reactive transport modeling approaches, complemented by field observations. This work will help reveal the relationship between water availability and the rate at which minerals dissolve to release both nutrients and contaminants. These studies have relevance to understand how element cycles may be affected by variations in water availability due to climate change, and to improve understanding and prediction of element release and uptake in arid environments, such as deserts, hypersaline lakes, or extra-terrestrial environments.