Thesis subject

Measuring physical weathering in mountainous landscapes

The importance of physical weathering of bedrock on soil formation is well-known. However, at present, no data are available to quantify this process in detail - what we know are very long-term results of the process: big rocks get turned into gravel, sand and silt-sized fragments. We have no good idea on the pathways of fragmentation. Do rocks fragment into pieces of uniform size? Do they favour pieces that are big, with some very small fragments next to it? What is the effect of lithology and climate?

In this thesis you will study the process of rock fragmentation in detail to understand the influence of climate, geology and topography on it. You will analyse the amount, size and shape of rock fragments in different soil profiles. This requires patience but can result in a valuable dataset that is useful to other research in geomorphology and soil science.

This thesis will involve a fair amount of field work, in different mountaineous areas in Andalucia in Spain. You will primarily sample soils from natural exposures in road cuts in the Sierra Morena along a climatic gradient. As fas as possible, the work will be embedded in existing research projects at the University of Cordoba.

Students: 1

Required: an interest in geomorphology, Geology and Landscapes of the World (SGL-33306)

Duration: typically 36 ECTS

Period: start in summer or very early autumn 2014

Supervision: Arnaud Temme (SGL) and Tom Vanwalleghem (University of Cordoba, Spain)

Theme: Soil development and landscape evolution