David B. Smith, Alecos Demetriades, Patrice de Caritat, Xueqiu Wang


Global-scale, or continental-scale, geochemical surveys cover millions of square kilometers of the Earth’s surface generally at a very low sample density (1 site per 1,000 to 10,000 km2). Geochemical patterns produced from these low-density surveys reflect processes that act at the broad scale of sampling. These processes are related to many factors including tectonics, climate, weathering, geochemical and mineralogical composition of the original soil parent material, continental-scale glaciation, topography, regional-scale alteration and mineralization, and in some cases, human activity. A multi-element geochemical atlas of the Earth’s land surface based on this type of survey has been a topic of discussion among applied geochemists since the 1980s. Over the past 15 years, several global-scale geochemical surveys have been conducted (Australia, China, Europe, India, Mexico, United States of America) and the data and maps are being used as a tool to aid in environmental and resource management. In 2016, the establishment of both the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) Commission on Global Geochemical Baselines and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) International Centre for Global-Scale Geochemistry has provided a hopeful future for continuing global-scale geochemical mapping in other parts of the world, with the ultimate product being a global geochemical database and atlas derived from this data set.

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