Rock Coatings

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

26 Scopus citations


Fourteen different types of coatings cover rock surfaces in every terrestrial weathering environment, altering the appearance of the underlying landform. Some accretions interdigitate, whereas others blend together, creating a great number of variations. Rock coatings are important in geomorphology because coatings: alter weathering rates; play a role in case-hardening surfaces; offer clues to understanding environmental change; and can provide chronometric insight into the exposure of the underlying rock surface. Following a landscape geochemistry paradigm, five general hierarchies of control explain the occurrence of different types of rock coatings: first order - geomorphic processes control the stability of bedrock surfaces on which coatings form; second order - coatings originating in rock fissures occur on subaerial surfaces when erosion of the overlying rock occurs; third order - the habitability of surfaces for fast-growing lithobionts such as lichens determines whether slowly accreting coatings occur; fourth order - the raw ingredients must have a transport pathway to the rock surface, and of course, they must be present; fifth order - physical, geochemical, or biological barriers to transport then result in the accretion of the coating.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationWeathering and Soils Geomorphology
PublisherElsevier Inc.
Number of pages28
ISBN (Print)9780080885223
StatePublished - Mar 2013


  • Carbonate skin
  • Case hardening
  • Desert varnish
  • Dust film
  • Heavy metal skin
  • Iron film
  • Lithobiontic coating
  • Nitrate crust
  • Oxalate crust
  • Phosphate skin
  • Pigment
  • Rock varnish
  • Salt crust
  • Silica glaze
  • Sulfate crust

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences
  • General Environmental Science


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