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Soil layers are approximately parallel to the land surface and several layersmay evolve simultaneously over a period of time. The layers in a soil aregenetically related; however, the layers differ from each other in their physical,chemical, and biological properties. In soil terminology, the layers are calledhorizons. Because soils as natural bodies are characterized by geneticallydeveloped horizons, soil formation consists of the evolution of soil horizons. Avertical exposure of a soil consisting of the horizons is a soil profile.
Horizonation (the formation of soil horizons) results from the differentialgains, losses, transformations, and translocations that occur over time withinvarious parts of a vertical section of the parent material. Examples of the major kinds of changes that occur to produce horizons are: (1) addition of organic matter from plant growth, mainly to the topsoil; (2) transformation represented by theweathering of rocks and minerals and the decomposition of organic matter; (3) lossof soluble components by water moving downward through soil carrying outsoluble salts; and, (4) translocation represented by the movement of suspendedmineral and organic particles from the topsoil to the subsoil.
Formation of A and C Horizons
Many events, such as the deposition of volcanic ash, formation of spoil banks during railroad construction, melting of glaciers and formation of glacialsediments, or catastrophic flooding and formation of sediments have been datedquite accurately. By studying soils of varying age, soil scientists havereconstructed the kinds and the sequence of changes that occurred to produce soils.Glacial sediments produced by continental and alpine glaciations arewidespread in the northern hemisphere, and the approximate dates of the formationof glacial parent materials are known. After sediments have been produced near aretreating ice front, the temperature may become favorable for the invasion of plants. Their growth results in the addition of organic matter, especially the