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In situ weathering of rocks or aeolian silt deposition: key parameters for verifying parent material and pedogenesis in the Opawskie Mountains—a case study from SW Poland

Loba, Aleksandra, Sykuła, Marcin, Kierczak, Jakub, Łabaz, Beata, Bogacz, Adam, Waroszewski, Jarosław
Journal of soils and sediments 2020 v.20 no.1 pp. 435-451
Cambisols, Luvisols, Stagnosols, acidity, bedrock, case studies, catenas, eolian soils, geochemistry, hills, ions, loess, mountains, organic carbon, pH, quartzite, silt, silt loam soils, soil formation, soil profiles, soil texture, soil weathering, texture, weathering, zirconium, Poland
PURPOSE: The aims: (1) to investigate the role of the in situ weathering of bedrock in providing substrate for soil formation; (2) to evaluate the aeolian contribution to the mountainous soils in the vicinity of thick loess cover; and (3) to determine the influence of aeolian silt on further soil development. MATERIALS AND METHODS: The sampled sites were arranged along the slope toposequence, where an aeolian/silt admixture possibly occurred. Each soil catena started at the top of a hill and ended at its foot. Such an arrangement of the soil profiles ensured the tracking of loess thickness variations and detection of the depth of the residuum-derived materials. One reference soil profile, consisting of aeolian silt deposits, was made. The following soil properties were determined: pH, organic carbon content, soil texture, exchangeable acidity, exchangeable ions and geochemistry. In addition, thin sections were prepared from rock samples to confirm the type of bedrock present. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION: The soils in the studied area were classified as Cambisols, Luvisols and Stagnosols, characterised by silt loam texture and a high content of elements indicating an aeolian silt contribution—Hf (7.4 to 14.8 ppm) and Zr (274.4 to 549.0 ppm). These values differ strongly from the residues typical of weathered quartzite, greywacke or catalasite substrates, which generally have low concentrations of Hf and Zr (0.7 to 7.0 ppm and 26.0 to 263 ppm, respectively). Based on the morphological, textural and geochemical data of the studied soils, three layers were distinguished, which show different inputs of aeolian silt: (1) an aeolian silt mantle; (2) a mixed zone in which loess was incorporated into the local material; and (3) a basal zone, free of the influence of aeolian silt. Based on the obtained results, a hypothetical pathway for soil formation in mountainous areas, influenced by aeolian silt admixing, was proposed. CONCLUSIONS: Our study demonstrates that the soils developed in the Opawskie Mountains are characterised by an aeolian silt influence. This differentiates them from weakly developed soils, which comprise materials formed during in situ weathering only. Materials originating from bedrock weathering did not play an independent role as the parent material for the studied pedons. Aeolian silt was admixed with already existing autochthonous substrates, or completely replaced them. This influence on the soil formation resulted in the occurrence of Luvisols, Stagnosols and Cambisols. Such soils cannot be formed from the weathering of quartzites and greywackes, which contribute to a less structure-forming medium.