You are on page 1of 11

What should you know?

Soil-Forming Factors
ESS 210
Chapter 2 pages 3174

Weathering processes - physical and chemical The five soil forming factors Types of soil parent materials Types of rocks and minerals Impacts of parent material, climate, organisms, topography, and time on soil formation

Homogeneous, inorganic compounds, with definite chemical formula Primary minerals
Formed as molten lava cools and solidifies Not chemically altered by weathering processes

Primary Minerals
Light colored aluminosilicate minerals
Quartz [SiO2]: most common, weather very slowly, sand size Feldspars: sand size, weather to soil clays
K-feldspars KAlSi3O8 Plagioclase feldspars:
Albite NaAlSi3O8 Anorthite CaAl2Si2O8

Secondary minerals
Recrystallization and/or alteration products of primary minerals

Muscovite mica KAl3Si3O10(OH)2

A parent of soil clay minerals: weathers to soil clay minerals Thin, translucent sheets (isinglass)

Primary Minerals
Dark colored, ferro-magnesium minerals
Biotite mica KAl(Mg,Fe)3Si3O10(OH)2
Thin dark sheets Weathers to soil clay minerals

Secondary minerals
Al and Fe (metal) oxides and hydroxides (sesquioxides)
Goethite FeOOH Hematite Fe2O3 Gibbsite Al(OH)3 Very stable soil minerals dominate in OLD soils

Hornblende NaCa2Mg5Fe2AlSi7O22(OH) Diopside CaMgSi2O6

Hornblende and diopside weather to soil clay minerals

Olivine (Mg,Fe,Mn)2SiO4

Ferro-magnesium minerals weather more rapidly than aluminosilicate minerals

Aluminosilicate clay minerals several types, common, and chemically complex Salts: calcite [CaCO3], gypsum [CaSO42H2O]

Mixtures of minerals
Randomly dispersed, individual mineral crystals; heterogeneous solid

Rock Cycle
Liquid Magma
Cooling & Crystallization Heat & Pressure Heat & Pressure

Texture refers to the size of mineral crystals in rock: fine, intermediate, coarse Minerals present and rock texture determine weathering rate


Weathering Heat & Pressure


Igneous Rocks
Formed when molten lava cools Primary minerals Coarse textured: granite
Primarily quartz, feldspars, some dark minerals very slow weathering

Igneous Rocks

Fine to intermediate texture: basalt

hornblende, augite, biotite, and other dark minerals relatively rapid weathering



Sedimentary and Metamorphic Rocks

Sedimentary: deposition and re-cementation of weathering products from other rocks
Sandstone, shale, limestone

Sedimentary Rocks

Metamorphic: igneous or sedimentary rocks transformed by high heat and/or pressure Granite Shale Sandstone Limestone Gneiss, schist Slate Quartzite Marble



Metamorphic Rocks

The (1) physical disintegration of rock to form smaller rocks or individual mineral particles and the (2) chemical decomposition of minerals to form dissolved substances and new minerals Weathering categories



Physical Chemical

Physical Weathering
A disintegration process that decreases particle size and increase particle surface area. Occurs through the affect of: Temperature
Differential heating or cooling of rocks exfoliation Freeze-thaw: water expands upon freezing, exerting tremendous force

Chemical Weathering
Alters the composition of minerals Conversion of primary minerals into secondary minerals, and secondary into other secondary minerals Most rapid with warm temperatures, high precipitation, and small particle size There are geochemical and biochemical agents of change Water is required

Abrasion by water and water-borne sediments, windblown particles, and ice in glaciers Organisms
Plant roots Soil animals Humans

Chemical Weathering Processes

Solutioning (dissolution): mineral dissolves in soil solution; common to soluble salts
CaSO42H2O (gypsum) Ca2+ + SO42- + 2H2O CaCO3 (calcite) Ca2+ + CO32-

Chemical Weathering Processes

Hydrolysis is an important weathering process Presence of H+ (acidity) accelerates weathering Sources of protons
CO2 in rainfall produces carbonic acid: CO2 + H2O H2CO3 H+ + HCO3 (rainfall is naturally acidic; pH ~ 5.6) Plant roots and soil organisms respire and produce carbonic acid Soil organic matter is a proton source Other acidic substances in rainfall: SOx/NOx + H2O H2SO4/HNO3 Fertilizers (e.g., NH4+)

Hydrolysis: water acts upon a substance to create a new substance

Involves both H2O and H+ as reactants Often results in release of nutrients from minerals and the formation of sesquioxides KAlSi3O8 (K-feldspar) + 7 H2O + H+ K+ + Al(OH)3 (gibbsite) + 3 H4SiO40

Hydration: addition of water to a mineral structure

5 Fe2O3 (hematite) + 9H2O Fe10O159H2O (ferrihydrite)

Chemical Weathering Processes

Oxidation/reduction (redox) reactions (the second most important weathering process)
Addition or loss of electrons from atom in a mineral Oxidation = loss of e; reduction = gain of e Electron-rich elements are termed reduced (e.g., Fe2+); electron-poor elements are termed oxidized (e.g., Fe3+) O2 is most common oxidizing agent Elements in primary minerals commonly exist in a reduced state Oxidation and reduction occur together; they are coupled (e)

Redox Reactions
Oxidation of Fe2+ by O2 (O2 is the oxidant, it will be reduced during the redox process) Oxidation half-reaction: Fe2+ Fe3+ + e Reduction half-reaction: O2 + e + H+ H2O Complete redox reaction: Fe2+ + O2 + H+ Fe3+ + H2O

Complexation Reactions
Microorganisms and plant roots exude organic acid anions, e.g., citrate, oxalate, and malate These organic acids bond with (chelate) metals, e.g., Al3+ and Fe3+, to form soluble complexes The metal-organic complex is stable and much more soluble than the metal ion alone

Complexation Reactions
Example: Al3+ complexation by ketogluconate Al(OH)3 (gibbsite) + 3H+ Al3+ + 3H2O Al3+ + C5O5H9COO C5O5H8COOAl+ + H+

Soil Formation Processes

Soil is an open system Additions - movement into profile
Organic matter Rainfall Sediments Chemicals: natural and anthropogenic Evapotranspiration Erosion Leaching of water and chemicals Gaseous losses of nutrients Removal by vegetation

Soil Formation Processes

Translocations: movement within the soil profile
Eluvial processes Illuvial processes

Losses - movement out of profile

Transformations: a change in form

Physical weathering Chemical weathering Microbial degradation

Five Soil Forming Factors

Soil is a dynamic natural body formed by the combined effects of climate and biota, as moderated by topography, acting on parent materials over time. Soil = (climate, biota, topography, parent materials, time)

Factor One: Parent Material

Parent material impacts
Soil textural class Innate soil fertility Types of clay minerals Soil pH

Classes of parent materials based on placement

Residual Transported (six types of transported materials)

Residual Parent Materials

Soils develop from underlying bedrock
Igneous, sedimentary, metamorphic

Transported Parent Materials

Colluvial debris Alluvial deposits Marine sediments Lacustrine sediments Eolian deposits Glacial deposits

Type of rock strongly influences type of soil

Limestone clayey soils Sandstone coarse, acidic soils Granite coarse, acidic soils Slate, shale clayey soils

Colluvial Debris
Poorly sorted fragments on steep slopes or at the foot of slopes, carried by gravity Small geographical areas Usually rocky and stony, no layering Physical weathering processes dominate relative to chemical weathering processes Well-drained but unstable

Alluvial Deposits
During flooding, water spreads and slows, and fine sediment is deposited. Horizontal and vertical stratification Terraces are old floodplains above the current floodplain Usually very fertile soils and important for agriculture, forestry, wildlife Poor choice for homes and other urban development

Alluvial Deposits
Alluvial fans
Usually gravelly/stony in mountainous regions, can have finer material as well. Stream leaves narrow upland channel, descends to broad valley below

Alluvial Deposits
Delta deposits
The continuation/terminus of the floodplain Rivers carry much clay/fine silt to lake or ocean Very slow water = deposition of fine particles Very clayey, swampy, poorly drained Example: Mississippi River delta in Louisiana

Marine and Lacustrine Sediments

Marine - Coastal Plains
Ocean sediments build up over time Exposed by changes in elevation of earths crust Materials are gravely, sandy, clayey depending on area Atlantic and Gulf Coastal areas, ~ 10% of US

Eolian Deposits
Loess deposits
Common in central United States Wind carried silts (coarse clays to fine sands) from glaciated areas Cover other soils or parent materials Western one-third of Tennessee is loessial Very thick (8+ m) at Mississippi River to non-existent at Tennessee River Blankets much of Iowa, thick at the Missouri River, thin on eastern side

Lake sediments build up over time Clayey soils formed as lakes dried Major areas of lacustrine soils in glaciated areas

Others - sand dunes (sand-size), aerosolic dust (clay-size), volcanic ash (allophanic soils)

Glacial Till
As glacier advances, grinds up rock and carries it Till is unsorted, unconsolidated material Deposited as glacier melts and recedes Till deposits called moraines
Ground moraine - material deposited in relatively uniform layer during retreat Terminal or end moraine - material left pushed up in ridge at southern-most edge of advancing glacier Recessional moraine terminal moraines from more than one advance

Ground moraines

Terminal moraines

Glacial Outwash
As glaciers melt, glacial rivers and streams form and carry sediments
Coarse materials drop first Fine materials carried furthest

Factor Two: Climate

Influences soil formation three ways: 1. Precipitation 2. Temperature 3. Native Vegetation

Deposits are sorted

Climate: Precipitation
As rainfall increases, chemical and physical weathering rates increase Profile depth increases Nutrient status changes
Loss of base cations Ca2+, Mg2+, K+, Na+ Al3+, Fe3+, Mn2+, H+ increase

Soil Moisture Regimes

Aquic: saturated with reducing conditions most of the year Udic: soil moisture control section is dry for < 90 cumulative days per year Ustic: is dry for > 90 cumulative days per year Aridic: dry in all parts for > half the year Xeric: moist winters, dry summers (Mediterranean, California)

Soil acidity increases

Soil Moisture Regimes

Aquic = wet = tile needed for row crops Udic = enough precipitation for corn Ustic = enough precipitation for wheat Aridic = cacti without irrigation Xeric = precipitation when not needed for production of most crops winter

Climate: Temperature
Chemical and biological reaction rates double for every 10 C increase Climates with extreme T, physical weathering (e.g., freeze-thaw) more significant than chemical weathering Evapotranspiration increases with increasing T

Soil Temperature Regimes

Cryic mean annual T < 8 C Frigid mean annual T < 8 C; difference between mean summer and mean winter T is > 6 C Mesic mean annual T > 8 C and < 15 C; difference between mean summer and mean winter T is > 6 C Thermic mean annual T > 15 C and < 22 C; difference between mean summer and mean winter T is > 6 C Hyperthermic mean annual T > 22 C; difference between mean summer and mean winter T is > 6 C

Climate: Type of vegetation

Humid = forest Sub-humid, semi-arid = grasslands Arid = shrubs, brush, succulents

Factor Three: Biota

Plants, animals, microorganisms Important for MANY processes in soil formation Chemical weathering
Organic acid anions, carbonic acid, oxidationreduction

Nutrient cycling
Base recycling Ca, Mg, K

Nitrogen addition
Microbial N-fixation N2 NH4+

Organic matter accumulation (humification)

Water holding, nutrient holding

Polysaccharides, gelatinous materials

Profile mixing
bioturbation earthworms, insects, etc.

Impact of Native Vegetation

High OM below surface Continuous root production, high interception of rain

Impact of Native Vegetation

Deciduous forests
High in basic cations High base cycling Slightly to moderately acid

Coniferous Forests
Vegetation low base cations (Ca, Mg, K) Low recycling Highly leached, acidic soils

Forest soils are usually more developed with more horizons, etc...

Grassland vs. Forest Soils

Grassland Deciduous Coniferous

Factor Four: Topography

Affects amount of water soil sees (yellow arrows): concept of effective precipitation Slope aspect affects soil temperature


Footslope Sideslope
active erosion active deposition

active deposition





Landscape Positions
Soil developed in residuum or in stable, unconsolidated materials (loess, glacial till) Rocks angular (except in till) Well-developed soils Highly-dissected

Landscape Positions
Terrace (second bottom, bench land)
Old alluvium, higher elevation than current Floodplain Round stones, rocks - indicates water worked Mature soils, some dissection

Bottom of slope, colluvial and alluvial deposits Partly rounded rock, immature/younger soils

Bottomland (floodplain)
Deposited by present stream action Rounded stones Immature soils, little dissection

Topography: Catena or Toposequence

Soils with same parent material, differ primarily in topographic location
Typical pattern of soils and underlying material in the HawthorneDellrose-Mimosa general soil map unit (Marshall Co., TN)

Inceptisol Ultisol Alfisol
A Bt1 Bt2 Bt3 Bt4 BC C R A BA Bt1 Bt2 2Bt3 A AE Bw C Cr

Hawthorne Dellrose


Factor Five: Time

Pretty obvious! Works in concert with other factors Chronologically old soil may be developmentally young, e.g., arid region soils which have very little development Soil age is a relative thing! Old soils = high water throughput (Ultisols & Oxisols) Young soils = low water throughput (Aridisols)

Physiography of Tennessee

Mississippi River

Central Basin Plateau Slope Highland Rim Great Valley Cumberland Plateau Unaka Range

Modified from "Geography of Tennessee", published by Ginn and Co.


Physiographic Regions
Mississippi River floodplain Highland Rim Cumberland Plateau

Regions and their soils

Unaka Range Generally young (developmentally), shallow soils. Parent materials are metamorphic and igneous rock Inceptisols very common - weak horizonation Ultisols in valleys, low elevations Valley and Ridge region (Knoxville) Well-developed soils Ultisols and Alfisols in limestone, sandstone, shale


Coastal Plain

Central Basin

Valley and Ridge

Smoky Mountains

Regions and their soils

Cumberland Plateau Generally loamy soils Sandstone is dominant parent material Ultisols dominant Highland Rim Generally clayey soils, many cherty Limestone is dominant parent material Ultisols and Alfisols Central Basin Clayey, often shallow soils Alfisols, Ultisols, Mollisols, Inceptisols

Regions and their soils

Coastal Plain Ultisols & Alfisols Clayey soils from fine sediments Loamy soils in coarse sediments Fine-loamy soils in loess over sediments West Tennessee Loess Region - Alfisols Fine-loamy soils in loess deposits, many fragipans Erosion is major risk Mississippi River Floodplain Entisols, Inceptisols, Alfisols, Mollisols Young, productive soils