Benchmark soils on alluvial, fluvial and fluvio-glacial formations of the upper-Segre valley .

Rosa María Poch Claret, Jaume Boixadera, Iolanda Simó


The upper reaches of the Segre river, flowing through the Pyrenees, offers a variety of geomorphic surfaces that allow us to study soil chronosequences. The objective of this work is to widen the knowledge about the main characteristics and formation processes of some benchmark soils developed on fluvio-glacial, alluvial-fan and terrace materials of Pleistocene and Holocene age related to the Segre river, either siliceous or carbonatic. This knowledge will allow us to identify soil forming processes, commonly found in Mediterranean environments such as carbonate redistribution, clay formation and mobilization and rubefaction, all as functions of parent material and age. Five profiles, ranging from the Lower Pleistocene to the Holocene were classified according to Soil Taxonomy/WRB. The Montferrer profile (Calcic Palexeralf /Calcic Cutanic Luvisol (Chromic) is a deep, partly decarbonated soil, with calcium carbonate accumulation in depth covering glacial features. The Torre del Remei profile (Typic Paleustalf /Cutanic Luvisol) developed on silicic moraines and shows an extreme clay formation and illuviation. The Alp (Typic Haplustalf /Cutanic Luvisol) and Tartera (Petric Calciustept /Petric Calcisol) soils are developed on alluvial fans with calcium carbonate sources. The former is partly decarbonated, whilst the latter is rubefacted on top and shows speleothem-like carbonate pendants with superposition of clay illuviation. The youngest profile, Abellerols, (Typic Calciustept /Typic Calcisol) shows only a partial decarbonation and calcite accumulation at depth. The results show that soil development is determined by the age of the surface and the source of calcite, either in the parent rock or brought by subsurface flow: clay illuviation is extreme in absence of it. Special morphologies of carbonate pendants are indicators of environmental conditions. The coexistence of clay coatings and secondary calcite can be explained by recarbonatation or by spatial differentiation of soil environments in the profile. One of the implications of this research is the inconsistence of using soil development indices based on morphological indicators when soils are formed on different parent materials and are subjected to different geomorphic dynamics.
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