The 'humped' soil production function: Eroding Arnhem land, Australia

Arjun Heimsath, David Fink, Greg R. Hancock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

100 Scopus citations


We report erosion rates and processes, determined from in situ-produced beryllium-10 (10Be) and aluminum-26 (26Al), across a soil-mantled landscape of Arnhem Land, northern Australia. Soil production rates peak under a soil thickness of about 35 cm and we observe no soil thicknesses between exposed bedrock and this thickness. These results thus quantify a welldefined 'humped' soil-production function, in contrast to functions reported for other landscapes. We compare this function to a previously reported exponential decline of soil production rates with increasing soil thickness across the passive margin exposed in the Bega Valley, south-eastern Australia, and found remarkable similarities in rates. The critical difference in this work was that the Arnhem Land landscapes were either bedrock or mantled with soils greater than about 35 cm deep, with peak soil production rates of about 20 m/Ma under 35-40 cm of soil, thus supporting previous theory and modeling results for a humped soil production function. We also show how coupling point-specific with catchment-averaged erosion rate measurements lead to a better understanding of landscape denudation. Specifically, we report a nested sampling scheme where we quantify average erosion rates from the first-order, upland catchments to the main, sixth-order channel of Tin Camp Creek. The low (̃5 m/Ma) rates from the main channel sediments reflect contributions from the slowly eroding stony highlands, while the channels draining our study area reflect local soil production rates (̃10 m/Ma off the rocky ridge; ̃20 m/Ma from the soil mantled regions). Quantifying such rates and processes help determine spatial variations of soil thickness as well as helping to predict the sustainability of the Earth's soil resource under different erosional regimes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1674-1684
Number of pages11
JournalEarth Surface Processes and Landforms
Issue number12
StatePublished - Sep 30 2009


  • Be
  • Erosion
  • Sediment transport
  • Soil
  • Weathering

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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