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Synlithogenic Evolution of Floodplain Soils in Valleys of Small Rivers in the Trans-Ural Steppe

Ivanov, I. V., Prikhodko, V. E., Zamotaev, I. V., Manakhov, D. V., Novenko, E. Yu., Kalinin, P. I., Markova, L. M., Plaksina, A. L.
Eurasian soil science 2019 v.52 no.6 pp. 593-609
Holocene epoch, Solonetz, alluvial soils, alluvium, buried soils, carbonates, climate, floodplains, floods, forests, humus, humus horizons, palynology, pollen, radiocarbon dating, research methods, rivers, salinity, soil formation, soil properties, steppes, trees, valleys, watersheds, Russia
The relationship between soil formation and sedimentation on the floodplain of the Utyaganka River (the Ural River basin) in the Arkaim Reserve (Chelyabinsk oblast, Southern Ural, Russia) was studied. Pedological, palynological, and mineralogical research methods were applied, and 15 radiocarbon dates of soil humus and sediments were obtained. The thickness of the Holocene sediments on the low floodplain is 4–5 m. Their top 1.5-m-thick layer formed in the recent 2000 yr contains three buried (partially superposed) soils formed at the mean rate of 13.3 cm/100 yr. Alluvial soddy soils with solonetzic and salinity features reflect intensive anthropogenic erosion in the river basin and characterize the Little Ice Age and the dry and warm Viking Age. At the depth of 1.5–5 m, there are up to five buried soils separated from one another by alluvium layers; they were formed in the period of 12 000–2000 BP at the rate of 1.9–3.1 cm/100 yr. Among them, the soils that developed 4200–2000 BP are characterized by varying humus content and solonetzicity; they are enriched with carbonates and reflect sharp fluctuations in atmospheric moistening against the background of dominating arid and continental climate. The soils formed 5500–4200 BP are gleyed, moderately humified, and calcareous; they testify to a more humid and warm climate than now. This period was characterized by the maximal area of forests (the pollen of tree species reaches 67%). The period of 8000–5500 BP was specified by warm and dry climate, which is indicated by soil properties and palynological data (15% of tree pollen). Soils formed 9500–8000 BP on stony proluvium-alluvium are eroded mucky gley soils; they reflect sharp fluctuations of the climate at the end of the glacial epoch. Floods were probably accompanied not only by alluvium accumulation but also by regular erosion of the surface and a decrease in the thickness of the humus horizon. This resulted in the renewal of soils and slowed down the increase in the thickness of humus horizon and in the intensity of alluvium accumulation. The average portion of humified soil layers reaches 26% of the total thickness of alluvial sediments.