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Title: Depth-dependent soil mixing persists across climate zones

Soil mixing over long (>102y) timescales enhances nutrient fluxes that support soil ecology, contributes to dispersion of sediment and contaminated material, and modulates fluxes of carbon through Earth’s largest terrestrial carbon reservoir. Despite its foundational importance, we lack robust understanding of the rates and patterns of soil mixing, largely due to a lack of long-timescale data. Here we demonstrate that luminescence, a light-sensitive property of minerals used for geologic dating, can be used as a long-timescale sediment tracer in soils to reveal the structure of soil mixing. We develop a probabilistic model of transport and mixing of tracer particles and associated luminescence in soils and compare with a global compilation of luminescence versus depth in various locations. The model–data comparison reveals that soil mixing rate varies over the soil depth, with this depth dependency persisting across climate and ecological zones. The depth dependency is consistent with a model in which mixing intensity decreases linearly or exponentially with depth, although our data do not resolve between these cases. Our findings support the long-suspected idea that depth-dependent mixing is a spatially and temporally persistent feature of soils. Evidence for a climate control on the patterns and intensities of soil mixing with depth more » remains elusive and requires the further study of soil mixing processes.

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Journal Name:
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
p. 8750-8756
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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