Purdue University Graduate School
Thesis_Tingyu_Hou_final.pdf (5.68 MB)

Erosion and Mobilization Controls on Soil Organic Geochemistry, Form, and Flux within Intensively Managed Agricultural Landscapes

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posted on 2021-07-28, 17:08 authored by Tingyu HouTingyu Hou

Soil organic carbon (OC) is one of the most important terrestrial carbon pools and plays a major role in climate regulation, water quality, provisional services, and numerous other ecosystem functions. The conversion of natural vegetation and the supporting soil to intensively managed agricultural systems put soil at risk for loss due to erosion and enhanced microbial degradation with loss rates increased by orders of magnitude above the pre-managed system. The process has negatively impacted agricultural productivity on hillslopes by diminishing soil health, as well as the quality of stream water and coastal aquatic environments, and it is an important but as of yet poorly quantified factor in the region’s terrestrial C budgets. There have been substantial debates on the role of erosional and depositional processes on the landscape as a control on exchange of C between the land surface and the atmosphere. A central aspect of the debate stems from the limited data regarding the fate of soil erosion-induced transport of OC through stages of detachment and splash, transport and redistribution, deposition and burial. The overarching purpose of this thesis is to evaluate how dynamic patterns of soil OC erosion due to intensive agricultural management influences soil aggregate strength, the chemical nature of mobilized organic particles, and connectivity and sourcing between hillslope and streams. Using both simulated and natural, short-term, event-based erosive rainfall processes, with a multiproxy geochemical approach, we attempt to develop a comprehensive understanding of how upland watershed mechanistic controls soil movement and associated chemical alterations to the material exported through dissected segments from hillslope to the fluvial network.

Our results demonstrate that erosive processes on hillslope connects between terrestrial sources to receiving potential deposition settings, actively ‘filter’ soil aggregates and particles and associated OC at each erosional stage (i.e., detachment and transport downhill/downstream), with distinct geochemistry in low relief and poorly drained agricultural systems, like the CCW. Complex interactions among tillage intensity, tillage practice-induced, oriented surface roughness, and storm-induced hydrological connectivity, that potentially impact the fate of these transported OC upon decomposition, deposition and burial, and have important implications for predicting landscape level heterogeneity in surface and buried soil chemistry upon mobilization and burial, as well as the dynamics of sourcing and transformation of material exported to inland water systems.


Critical Zone Observatory for Intensively Managed Landscapes (IML-CZO)

Directorate for Geosciences

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Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Cliff T. Johnston

Additional Committee Member 2

Timothy R. Filley

Additional Committee Member 3

Darrell G. Schulze

Additional Committee Member 4

Neal E. Blair