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Geoderma 99 Ž2001.


Genesis of gypsum enriched soils in north-west

Isfahan, Iran
Norair Toomanian a,) , Ahmad Jalalian b,1,
Mostafa Karimian Eghbal b,2
Soil and Water DiÕision, Isfahan Agricultural Research Center, P.O. Box 81785,
Amir hamzeh St., KeshaÕarz highway, Isfahan, Iran
Department of Soil Science, College of Agriculture, Isfahan UniÕersity of Technology,
P.O. Box 84154, Isfahan, Iran

Received 14 December 1998; received in final revised form 28 March 2000;

accepted 3 April 2000


Most of gypsum-enriched soils in Isfahan and neighboring provinces occur on alluvial fans,
dissected flood plains Žold dissected alluvium.and piedmont plains. Herein we investigate the
processes of formation and alteration of gypsic horizons and their pedofeatures. We described and
sampled representative pedons on a transect from the mountain to the piedmont plain. In the study
area, different gypsic pedofeatures have various kinds of internal lenticular cryslalitic fabrics.
Micromorphologic observations confirmed that gypsic horizons have an evolutionary sequence
across the different geomorphic surfaces from the upper fan to the piedmont plain. In primary
stages Župper fan., gypsum crystals occur individually in the soil groundmass or as clusters in
voids with idiotopic or xenotopic fabrics. Eventually, they form internal coatings or infillings and
pendants Žin middle and lower fans.. In the more developed horizons Ždissected flood plains or
plateaus., the fibrous gypsum crystals are banded and perpendicularly distributed with reference to
the gravels and soil surface. These loosely compacted fibers constitute the bulk of the soil
materials, leaving non-gypsic particles as islands between crystals. In these pedofeatures, perpen-
dicularly oriented fibrous crystals, with their lateral inter-connections give rise to a continuous
three-dimensional firm structure.

Corresponding author. Tel.: q98-31-757205; fax: q98-31-750099.
E-mail addresses: ŽN. Toomanian., ŽA. Jalalian., ŽM.K. Eghbal..
Fax: q98-8912254.
Fax: q98-8912254.

0016-7061r01r$ - see front matter q 2001 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
PII: S 0 0 1 6 - 7 0 6 1 Ž 0 0 . 0 0 0 5 8 - 6
200 N. Toomanian et al.r Geoderma 99 (2001) 199–224

The fabric of these lenticular gypsum crystals is xenotopic or hyp-idiotopic. In the piedmont
plain, the idiotopic crystals have no preferred orientation and have random distribution. Internal
fabric of these pedofeatures is porphyrotopic. This study indicates that, physical environment
plays a great role in formation of different gypsic pedofeatures. q 2001 Elsevier Science B.V. All
rights reserved.

Keywords: landforms; micromorphology; soil taxonomy; gypsic pedofeatures

1. Introduction

Gypsum is a common component and the most common sulfate mineral in

soils of arid and semi-arid areas Ž Doner and Warren, 1989; Porta and Herrero,
1988.. Gypsum contents range from about 1% to nearly 100% depending on
climate, topography and physiography ŽHerrero et al., 1992; Watson, 1988,
1983.. The amount of gypsum is more related to soil moisture regime than to
soil temperature regime. Gypsum in soils is found over a wide range of
temperatures ŽWatson, 1983; Doner and Warren, 1989; FAO, 1990. . However,
most gypsic soils occur in Xeric, Ustic and Aridic moisture regimes Ž FAO,
1990; Watson, 1983.. Crystal growth habits of secondary gypsum differ with
chemical composition and pH. Meanwhile, the form of crystals is affected by
the kind and the environment under which gypsum forms ŽEswaran and Zi-Tong,
1991; Cody, 1979. . In most cases, forms of secondary crystals are lenticular and
sizes range from silt to over sand sizes Ž ) 2 mm. . Crystals occur as individuals
and as masses within the groundmass Ž Eswaran and Zi-Tong, 1991; Porta and
Herrero, 1988. . Due to their amount and distribution, they can cement an entire
horizon. Less is known about gypsum as a major component of soils. Hypergyp-
sic soils have been studied in the following circumstances.

1. Sabkhas, Playas and related areas ŽWarren, 1989; Nettleton et al., 1982. .
2. Hilly areas on gyprock ŽVan Alphen and de los Rios Romero, 1971;
Herrero et al., 1992..
3. River alluvial plains and Terraces with gypsum originating from past or
present water tables or by flooding ŽBarzanji, 1973..
4. Surfaces with eolian gypsum Ž Nettleton et al., 1982; Taimeh, 1992. .
5. In Vertisoils Ž Podwojewski and Arnold, 1994. .
6. Weathered gypsiferous marls Ž Mahmoodi, 1986; Stoops and Ilaiwi, 1981. .

Genesis of gypsiferous soils on alluvial fans and fan remnants, where the
gypsum source was from upper watersheds, has not been completely considered.
Our study focuses on the genesis of gypsic and hypergypsic horizons. In the
study area, gypsum originates mainly from the weathering of Cretaceous
limestone and Jurassic shale of the surrounding sediments Ž Toomanian, 1995. .
Working on origin of gypsum in surveyed area Ž Mountains and doted area, Fig.
1., Toomanian Ž1999. believes that some gypsum is present in different Creta-
N. Toomanian et al.r Geoderma 99 (2001) 199–224 201

Fig. 1. Study area in Isfahan province, central Iran.

ceous limestone. This is supported by Khademi et al. Ž 1997a,b.. Their isotopic

work on geochemistry of gypsiferous Aridisols from central Iran, confirm that,
the most common rocks of Cretaceous and Oligo–Miocene age contain an
appreciable amount of sulfate with a d34 S value ranging from q11.45 to
q13.96 and the sulfate in the Lower Cretaceous sediments controls the geo-
chemistry of the younger geologic Formations and consequently the sulfate in
soils. From their point of view, the source of sulfates is from sea water that
entered these sediments during Tertiary and are a potential source for gypsum.

2. Materials and methods

2.1. Description of the area

The study area is located on the south slope of Jaafarabad mountain, which is
representative of the north Zayandehrud sub-watershed, 20 km north of Isfahan
ŽFig. 1.. The block diagram and cross-section of study area are shown in Figs. 2
and 3. The approximate surface of the area is 2756 hectares and the elevation of
landforms range from 1550 to 1870 m between the piedmont plain and adjacent
202 N. Toomanian et al.r Geoderma 99 (2001) 199–224

Fig. 2. Block diagram of study area and location of pedons.

peaks. Soil parent materials are derived from weathering of calcareous sedi-
ments and shale. According to the Koppen method Ž 1987. , the study area has a

Fig. 3. Cross-section showing the sedimentary petrology and different landforms of the study area.
N. Toomanian et al.r Geoderma 99 (2001) 199–224 203

dry and very hot climate with dry summers. Annual means of evapotranspira-
tion, temperature and precipitation are 1571 mm, 14.18C and 122.4 mm,
respectively. The climatic data for the study area are presented in Table 1.
Several geomorphic processes affect the landforms in the area. The first is the
removal of materials across the radial slope of watershed and the second is the
translocation of materials by watershed’s drainage system and subsequent
erosion processes. The latter is responsible for forming the existing old dissected
surfaces Ž plateaus. and piedmont plains Ž Figs. 2 and 3.. Geomorphological and
paleoclimatological studies of Krinsley Ž1970. , Bobek Ž 1961. and Wright Ž 1961.
have shown that central Iran had a colder and wetter climate in late Pleistocene
and early Quaternary periods. This made the translocation of eroded coarse
materials to far distances possible.
Only part of the piedmont plain is cultivated Ž Wheat, Barley. ; the rest of the
area is of low productive range. Sparse green cover consists of; Euphorbia sp.,
Alhaji comelorum, Artemizia alba, and Peganum harmal.

2.2. Field methods

A transect, with soil profiles from mountain to adjacent piedmont plain, was
studied ŽFigs. 2 and 3.. Using USDA-SCS Ž1979. and ISWRI Ž1988. manuals,
pedons were described and soil samples were taken from genetic horizons. For
distinction, definition and designation of genetic horizons, Soil Survey Staff
Ž1998., FAO, ISSS, ISRIC Ž 1998. and FAO-UNESCO Ž 1989. were considered.
In the case of hypergypsic horizons, the nomenclature of Eswaran and Zi-tong
Ž1991. and Herrero et al. Ž1992. was followed.

2.3. Laboratory methods

Standard chemical properties were determined Ž Soil Conservation Service,

1972. and gypsum was measured with revised acetone method Ž Soil Conserva-

Table 1
Climatic data of study area
Jan. Feb. Mar. Apr. May June July Aug. Sep. Oct. Nov. Dec.
Mean max. temp. 8.7 11.9 16.7 22.2 28 34 36.3 35.2 31.2 24.3 17.7 10.9
Mean min. temp y1.9 y0.3 4.4 9.4 14.3 19.2 21.6 19.9 15.2 9.3 3.7 y0.8
Mean temp. 3.4 4.4 8.6 12.4 17.4 22.4 24.1 22.7 19.2 16.7 10.4 5.1
Rainfall Žmm. 23.1 15.1 20.5 15.4 9.8 0.7 0.9 0.1 0 4.3 10.1 22.4
Pot. Evapo- 46.8 58.9 110 139.5 186.7 313.3 228.5 208 155.1 115.9 65.1 4.4
transpiration Žmm.
Freezing period 24.6 15.9 6.6 0.1 0 0 0 0 0 0 5.2 20.8
Relative humidity Ž%. 60.9 53.8 46.9 40.1 33.6 23.6 25 25.8 28.3 38.6 49.7 58.7
204 N. Toomanian et al.r Geoderma 99 (2001) 199–224

Table 2
Component and modifications of resin for saturating and mounting of samples
Resin constituents Rec. sample Revised Mounting
saturation rate saturation rate rate
Resin: Cannus C-32 2000 ml 50 ml 5 ml
Catalyst: Lupresol D.D.M. 1 ml 0.2 ml 0.1 ml
Accelerator: Cobalt naphthanate 0.2 ml 3 drops 0.5 drop
Solvent: Acetone 2000 ml 50 ml 2 ml

tion Service, 1972, 6f 1a. and was corrected for hydration water Ž Nelson et al.,
1978; Lagerwerff et al., 1965..This procedure involved Ža. changing of
soilrwater ratio from 1r5 to 1r500; Žb. increasing the first shaking period from
0.5 to 48 h; and Žc. increasing the sedimentation period, after adding acetone,
from 0.5 to 2 h.
Using pre-treatment described by Hess Ž 1976. , textures of samples were
measured by the pippet method. Silica gel was used for oven drying. All the
data are reported in percentage of dry matter, and corrected for two water
molecules of dried gypsum Ž Nelson et al., 1978. .
Soil micromorphology was described using thin section techniques. To avoid
crystallographic changes, during all preparation stages, samples were not al-
lowed to overheat. We modified cannus ŽC-32. resin Ž Murphy, 1986. mixing
rates for the thin section preparation ŽTable 2.. We described the thin sections
using the Bullock et al. Ž1985. handbook.

3. Results

We have presented data on parent material, genetic horizons and classifica-

tion of the soils on five different landforms in Table 3. The genetic character-
istics and micromorphological properties of gypsum in each soil are described in
Table 4. Some of the physico-chemical and morphological characteristics of
pedons are shown in Table 5. It is interpreted that old landforms had been
formed by catastrophic floodings in late Pleistocene and early Quaternary
periods, which were then dissected with erosional processes. Gypsification of
these landforms also had been taken place in same periods. Later deposition of
finer materials between dissections made the existing piedmont plains. The light
young soils of the upper fan consist of more coarse angular fragments. The soils
of the middle and lower alluvial fans have round gravels with more fine material
and heavier texture. Stereoscopic interpretation of landforms in the surveyed
watershed shows that eroded materials with gypsum saturated runoff move from
the mountain through alluvial fans and plateaus to the piedmont plains. Horizon
sequences and schematic view of features in representative pedons are shown in
N. Toomanian et al.r Geoderma 99 (2001) 199–224
Table 3
Parent material, sequence of genetic horizons, and classifications of soils on the different landforms
Landforms and Upper fan Middle and lower Old dissected alluviums Old dissected alluviums Piedmont plain
characteristics alluvial fans Žwithout gravel. Žgravelly plateau.
Parent material Very coarse Alluvium eroded Fine sediments with Gravelly sediments Fine alluviums
colluvium from neighbouring threadsa of gypsum with pendants of gypsum over remnant of
mountains old surfaces
Genetic horizons A, C1, C2, 2Byb A, Bk1, Bk2, By Ay, Y1b, By1, By2 A, Y1, Y2, 2Y3 Ap, Bk1, Bk2, 2By1, 2By2, 2By3
Soil classification Typic Torriorthent Calcic Haplogypsid c Leptic Hypergypsid c Leptic Hypergypsid c Calcic Haplogypsid c
Profile number 3d 4,5 d ,6,8 9 d ,12 10,11d 13,14 d,15
Parallel basic, perpendicular referred orientation and, banded laterally interlaced basic, perpendicular referred distribution of centimetric gypsic
fibers Žrefer to Bullock et al., 1985, pp. 33,34..
Suggested designation for hypergypsic horizons ŽAs a Master Horizon..
Suggested classification, AGreat groupB, not presently defined ŽSoil Survey Staff, 1998..
Representative Profiles.

Table 4
Genetic characteristic and micromorphological properties of gypsic horizons
Horizon Depth Žcm. Gy, % CrF related Fabric of Soil pedological properties
distributiona groundmass Micromorphological Macromorphological
gypsic pedofeatures characteristics
Upper fan
Profile No. 3

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A 0–15 1.79 Chitonic Speckled b-fabric Mono or poly euhedral Massive, light texture, coarse gravels.
lenticular crystals in voids.
C1 15–70 1.079 Chitonic Speckled b-fabric Euhedral and subhedral Massive, light texture, coarse gravels.
crystals in voids and groundmass.
2C2 70–100 0.988 Enaulic Speckled b-fabric Mono or poly euhedral Massive, light texture, coarse gravels.
lenticular crystals in voids.
2Byb 100–140 13.17 b Chitonic Speckled b-fabric Internal coatings and infillings, Massive, light texture, coarse gravels,
external coatings. gypsum spots, little gypsic pendents.

Middle and lower fans

Profile No. 5
A 0–15 1.426 Single Spaced Speckled b-fabric Individual subhedral Massive, sandy loam, gravely.
porphyric crystals in voids.
Bk1 15–38 1.217 Chitonic to Speckled b-fabric Individual subhedral Sub angular blocky,
Gefuric crystals in voids. sandy clay, pockets
and spots of secondary
calcium carbonate.
Bk2 38–65 0.78 Chitonic Speckled, seldom Mono or poly euhedral Massive, sandy clay
granostriated, b-fabric lenticular crystals in voids. loam, gravely, pockets
and concretion of secondary
calcium carbonate.
By 65–130 20.2 Chitonic to Mosaic speckled Poly anhedral crystals, Massive, sandy clay
Gefuric to striated b-fabric xenotopic and loam, gypsic pendants and spots.
porphyrotopic fabrics.
Old dissected alluÕium (plateaus without graÕel)
Profile No. 9
Ay 0–17 29.3 Chitonic Speckled b-fabric Anhedral crystals in Powdery, Sandy loam,
in voids, Detrited Non gravely gypsum
ones in groundmass. as a adhesive agent.
Y1 17–54 67.4 Enaulic Crystallitic and Perpendicular growth of Wall of gypsum, Vertical
lsles fabric crystals along each other threads Žbundled fibers
ŽVertical fibers.,c hyp- with laterally connection..,

N. Toomanian et al.r Geoderma 99 (2001) 199–224

idiotopic internal fabric, network or reticulation of
gypsic groundmass. threads, little non gypsic
masses, continuous
porous media.
By1 54–98 50.6 Enaulic Crystallitic and Same as upper layer, Same as upper layer,
lsles fabric longer fibers, hyp-idiotopic longer threads and strong
and xenotopic internal fabrics network or reticulation.
in fibers and in their inter-
connection parts consequently.
By2 98–150 49.9 Enaulic to Crystallilic fabric Same as upper layer, Same as upper layer but
Chitonic and speckled b-fabric coarse crystals with xenotopic smaller threads, increasing
and locally porphyrotopic of fine non-gypsic materials.
fabrics in groundmass.

Old dissected alluÕium (graÕelly plateaus)

Profile No. 11
A 0–15 2.5 Chitonic to Speckled b-fabric Anhedral crystals in voids. Stratified, Sandy loam,
Gefuric Desert pavement,
crust under pavement.

(continued on next page)

Table 4 Ž continued .

N. Toomanian et al.r Geoderma 99 (2001) 199–224

Horizon Depth Žcm. Gy, % CrF related Fabric of Soil pedological properties
distributiona groundmass Micromorphological Macromorphological
gypsic pedofeatures characteristics
Old dissected alluÕium (graÕelly plateaus)
Profile No. 11
Y1 15–73 77.9 Monic Gipsic crystallitic Diagonally connection of Coarse pendants, firm
and lsles fabric coarse crystals along each reticulation of gypsum crystals,
other under gravels, with continuous very porous media.
hyp-idiotopic and xenotopic
fabrics in inter-connection
parts of fibers.
Y2 73–115 67.9 Monic Gypsic crystallitic Diagonally connection of Coarse pendants, firm
and lsles fabric coarse crystals along each reticulation of gypsum
other under gravels, with crystals, continuous
hyp-idiotopic and xenotopic very porous media.
fabrics in inter-connection
parts of fibers.
2Y3 115–150 64.6 Monic Gypsic crystallitic Diagonally connection of Pendants, firm reticulation
and isles fabric coarse crystals along each of gypsum crystals.
other under gravels, with
hyp-idiotopic and xenotopic
fabrics in inter-connection
parts of fibers.
Piedmont plain
Profile No. 14
Ap 0–25 0.97 Gefuric Speckled and seldom Lenticular gypsum Fine granular,
granostriated b-fabric crystals in voids. sandy clay loam.
Bk1 25–45 1.56 Gefuric Speckled and seldom Lenticular gypsum Massive, gravel less,
granostriated b-fabric crystals in voids. clay loam, concretion
and pockets of secondary
calcium carbonate.

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Bk2 45–60 1.05 Gefuric Speckled b-fabric Lenticular gypsum Massive, gravel less,
crystals in voids. clay loam, concretion
and pockets of secondary
calcium carbonate.
2By1 60–90 34.3 Enaulic, Speckled b-fabric, Coarse and fine Massive, gypsum crystals
seldom chitonic Lenticular gypsic isolated euhedral crystals, occur locally.
crystallitic fabric, porphyrotopic fabric,
local isles fabric. gypsic infillings and
internal coatings.
2By2 90–117 59.5 Enaulic, Speckled b-fabric, Coarse and fine Massive, contiguous clusters
seldom chitonic Lenticular gypsic isolated euhedral crystals, of gypsum crystals form
crystallitic fabric, porphyrotopic fabric, the whole or the most
local isles fabric. gypsic infillings and part of the horizon.
internal coatings.
2By3 117–140 14.5 Enaulic, Speckled b-fabric, Coarse and fine Massive, gypsum crystals
seldom chitonic Lenticular gypsic isolated euhedral crystals, occur locally
crystallitic fabric, porphyrotopic fabric, with less gypsum.
local isles fabric. gypsic infillings and
internal coatings.
CoarserFine related distribution pattern.
Gypsic horizons were named based on the field observation.
Perpendicular oriented gypsum crystals with banded basic distribution.

N. Toomanian et al.r Geoderma 99 (2001) 199–224
Table 5
Some of the physico-chemical and morphological characteristics of pedons
Horizon Depth Žcm. Texture Sat. Per. Ž%. Gravel Ž%. V.F.S. Ž%. Structure pH ECe. ŽdSrm. O.M. Ž%.
Clay Silt Sand
Profile No. 3
A 0–15 53 30 17 23 60 11.5 Sg 8 1.1 0.622
C1 15–70 68 21 11 28 60 13.7 Sg 8 1.06 0.54
2C2 70–100 81.4 12.6 6 30 30 11.1 Sg 8.15 0.84 0.307
2Byb 100–140 31.5 44.5 26 44 20 10 Sg 7.8 2.9 0.4

Profile No. 5
A 0–15 69.5 17.5 13 18.4 20 5.2 Gr,2,f 7.85 3.09 0.6
Bk1 15–38 59.5 16.5 24 32.2 15 7 Sbk,1,f 8.15 0.792 0.369
Bk2 38–65 65.5 14.5 22 25.7 40 7 Massive 8 1.07 0.662
By 65–130 57 13 30 42.6 15 5 Massive 7.7 4.7 0.636

Profile No. 9
Ay 0–17 60 30.5 9.5 18.7 10 12.6 Gr,2,vf 7.7 2.7 0.488
Y1 17–54 64 33.5 2.5 21.4 5 11.8 Massive 7.5 2.6 0.135
By1 54–98 53 41 6 22 15 7 Massive 7.75 2.75 0.133
By2 98–150 52 45.5 2.5 25 20 5.2 Massive 7.75 2.7 0.287
Profile No. 11
A 0–15 55.3 33 11.7 18.7 30 11.2 Massive 7.7 3.25 0.253
Y1 15–73 72 22 6 16 45 11.5 Massive 7.9 4.3 0.137
Y2 73–115 65 27 8 20.7 40 8.1 Massive 7.8 4.43 0.163
2Y3 115–150 63 20 17 25.4 5 14.2 Massive 7.7 3.7 0.22

Profile No. 14
Ap 0–25 55 20 25 27.5 15 10.2 Gr,1,f 7.9 3.5 0.34

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Bk1 25–45 43.5 28 28.5 35 15 9.3 Massive 7.8 7.34 0.251
Bk2 45–60 35.5 41.5 23 39.6 5 11.2 Massive 7.75 9 0.384
2By1 60–90 60 31 9 24 40 7 Massive 7.6 6.4 0.102
2By2 90–117 67 18.5 14.5 19.6 35 6.3 Massive 7.75 4.4 0.1
2By3 117–140 71 18 11 21.2 45 4.1 Massive 7.8 4.6 0.192

N. Toomanian et al.r Geoderma 99 (2001) 199–224
Fig. 4. Horizon sequences and scheme of features in representative pedon.
N. Toomanian et al.r Geoderma 99 (2001) 199–224 213

Fig. 5. Euhedral gypsum crystals formed in voids ŽXPL, X: 40..

Fig. 4. Pedological characteristics of these profiles on the landforms are as

Profile No. 3, located on an upper fan, is coarse textured and weakly
developed. Periodic sedimentation inhibit the development of this soil, which
buries a paleosol that has a gypsic horizon. In the ground soil, euhedral or
subhedral gypsum crystals appear in soil pores or in groundmass Ž Fig. 5. . In the
buried gypsic horizon, gypsum pedofeatures occur as little spots and pendants.
Profile No. 5 occurs on a middle fan having 5–8% slope. It has both gypsic
and calcic horizons. The upper boundary of the gypsic horizon has diagonal
threads of gypsum crystals that abruptly separates it from the calcic horizon.

Fig. 6. Xenotopic fabric of anhedral gypsum crystals ŽXPL, X: 40..

214 N. Toomanian et al.r Geoderma 99 (2001) 199–224

Fig. 7. Xenotopic and hyp-idiotopic fabrics of anhedral and subhedral crystals ŽXPL, X: 100..

Below this boundary, the assemblages of crystals change to pockets and

pendants. In the calcic horizon, there are fewer gypsum crystals. The crystals are
anhedral or occasionally euhedral crystals with xenotopic and hyp-idiotopic
fabrics are concentrated in soil pores ŽFig. 6.. Gypsum crystals increase in the
groundmass of lower horizons. The internal fabric of these crystals is anhedrally

Fig. 8. Internal coating of xenotopic gypsum crystals ŽXPL, X: 40..

N. Toomanian et al.r Geoderma 99 (2001) 199–224 215

Fig. 9. Vertical threads of gypsum crystals.

xenotopic or euhedrally idiotopic Ž Fig. 7. . Pedofeatures formed in this horizon

include channel or chamber internal coatings, infillings and grain external
coatings ŽFig. 8. .

Fig. 10. Three-dimensional network of gypsum crystals.

216 N. Toomanian et al.r Geoderma 99 (2001) 199–224

Fig. 11. Decreased length of gypsic threads and lateral interconnections.

Profile No. 9 occurs on an old dissected surface Ž border of plateaus. , and

consists of only vertical gypsic threads ŽFig. 9, vertical bands of crystals..
Colour, firmness, differences in shape of crystals’ network Ž Fig. 10. , amount of

Fig. 12. Connections of lenticular gypsum crystals to form vertical fibers and threads ŽXPL, X:
N. Toomanian et al.r Geoderma 99 (2001) 199–224 217

Fig. 13. Xenotopic fabric of crystals in interconnections part Žknots. of vertical threads ŽXPL, X:

nongypsic materials and presence of yellowish orange mottles differ horizon by

horizon. These mottles probably are caused by concentration of iron minerals
released from transformation of Fe-chlorite ŽToomanian, 1995. . Gypsum crys-
tals adhere to soil material to form a fine granular structure in the Ay horizon.
Vertical gypsic threads are somewhat connected laterally to form a firm network

Fig. 14. Vesicular crust with friable consistency.

218 N. Toomanian et al.r Geoderma 99 (2001) 199–224

Fig. 15. Changing of gypsum crystals arrangement to form box-like voids.

in the Y1 and By1 horizons. As the soil depth increases, the length of banded
vertical fibers Ž threads. decrease and their lateral inter-connection parts grow
ŽFig. 11.. Fine gypsum crystals and aggregates constitute the groundmass of

Fig. 16. Vertical growth of euhedral crystals under sandstone to form pendants ŽXPL, X: 100..
N. Toomanian et al.r Geoderma 99 (2001) 199–224 219

Fig. 17. Vertical threads made by lenticular gypsum crystals ŽXPL, X: 100..

these soils and nongypsic materials remain as isles. Internal fabric of crystals in
the threads and the knots are hyp-ididiotopic and xenotopepic Ž Figs. 12 and 13. .
Profile No. 11 on dissected old alluvium Ž gravelly old geomorphic surface.
has a thin surface layer of fine, loose soil material below a desert pavement.
Beneath this layer, silt size soil materials with vesicular pores provide a unique
kind of soil crust Ž Fig. 14. . Underneath this crust, gypsum occur as pendants.
Long vertical gypsum crystals mostly under round gravels Ž Boyadgiev and
Sayegh, 1992. connect laterally to make a strong network throughout the whole
profile. Below a depth of 115 cm, gravels are lacking and arrangement of
gypsum crystals change to a somewhat boxwork-likes arrangement Ž Fig. 15. .

Fig. 18. Euhedral crystals with porphyrotopic fabric in soil groundmass ŽXPL, X: 40..
220 N. Toomanian et al.r Geoderma 99 (2001) 199–224

The least non-gypsic, fine soil materials appear as isles inside a continuous
crystalline gypsic pedofeatures. Gypsic pedofeatures constitute the bulk of these
horizons. The internal fabric of these crystalline features are hyp-idiotopic and
xenotopic ŽFigs. 16 and 17..
Profile No. 14 on the piedmont plain overlies a remnant of old coarse
alluvium. Calcic horizons occur in the upper part and gypsic ones below.
Isolated lenticular euhedral gypsum crystals occur in the groundmass or in voids
ŽFig. 18.. The groundmass of the lower horizons consist mainly of gypsum
crystals with nongypsic materials between them.

4. Discussion

Considering the morphology and physical characteristics of soils Ž Table 5.

and based on our observations, we propose the following genetic stages of
gypsic horizons development.

4.1. Stage one

Runoff from geologic sediments in the mountains transports gypsum in

solution to the soils of the coarse textured upper fans. Evaporation causes the
formation of gypsic lenticular crystals in voids Ž Fig. 5. . Crystals form first in
fine pores where water tends to collect. Crystal growth in light-textured soils
with single grain structure Žloose consistency. changes the pore geometry and is
probably responsible for material rearrangement within the horizons. Hence,
some crystals occur without relating to any void. Soils of this stage occur on
gravely fans having less than 2% gypsum. In the field, these crystals are not
detected visually.

4.2. Stage two

Continued crystallization increases the number, size and colonies of gypsum

crystals. The colonies of crystals are visually detected in field. Isolated lenticular
crystals form but soil remains massive. Crystals are mostly within the soil
groundmass. Fabrics of nested crystals in thin section are xenotopic or hyp-idio-
topic ŽFig. 6. . In this stage, crystal nests have not been connected and the gypsic
horizon criteria are not met.

4.3. Stage three — Gypsic horizons formation

Gypsification processes are more active in middle or lower fan because

materials are finer. Increasing the size and amount of crystals cause formation of
granules, internal coating of channels and chambers, infillings and pendants. In
N. Toomanian et al.r Geoderma 99 (2001) 199–224 221

this stage gypsic spots and little pendants may be observed in the field. Very
large individual crystals are also formed. The fabric of groundmass is lenticular
gypsic, but the soil micromass has speckled to striated b-fabric with chitonic to
enoulic distribution patterns ŽTable 4. . Internal fabrics of fine and coarse
crystals in gypsic pedofeatures are xonotopic or hyp-idiotopic and seldom
idiotopic ŽFig. 8.. The soil in this stage meets gypsic horizon criteria and the
amounts of gypsum range from 15% to 60%.

4.4. Stage four — hypergypsic horizons formation

Dissected surfaces and piedmont plains in our study area are in lower parts of
the watershed and received gypsum from two sources. First, they received
gypsum by late Pleistocene or early Quaternary flooding. Second, continued run
off from radial slopes added additional gypsum.
As a result of their super enrichment with gypsum, soils on these surfaces
have complicated pedofeatures. To explain these, we divide the 4th stage into
the following three parts, based on the effect of the soil physical environment on
crystal formation, crystal arrangement and distribution.
Ž1. In soils on old non-gravelly surfaces, centimetric lenticular gypsum
crystals connect diagonally to form long vertical fibers Ž Fig. 12. . These crystals
have banded interlaced basic distribution. In this crystallitic gypsic groundmass,
three-dimensional connection of fibers form a continuous porous media. Water
moves along the connected voids and over crystal faces of soil. This phe-
nomenon thickens the fibers, establishes lateral connections and destroys lenticu-
larity of crystals. The equigranular xenotopic crystals have basic random
orientation pattern in the inter connection parts Ž knots.. Some of the crystals
within the fibers have hyp-idiotopic to idiotopic fabric Ž Fig. 13. . To form the
threads, centimetric fibers have banded and interlaced basic distribution, and
related to soil surface, they also have perpendicular distribution. The soil
groundmass consists mostly of lenticular gypsic crystallitic and isles fabrics.
These soils meet all hypergypsic requirements.
Ž2. On old gravelly alluviums, gypsum enters through runoff water. Evapora-
tion causes this water from underneath the gravels to recrystalize as vertically
arranged lenticular crystals Ž Fig. 16. . As the process continues, new crystals are
formed beside or along the previous ones. This process forms gypsic fibers and
eventually centimetric threads underneath gravels Ž Fig. 17. . These bearded
gravels are called gypsic pendants.
The formation, growth and connection of pendants in these gravelly soils
establish a firm continuous crystalline network Ž porous media. that constructs
the whole profile. Formation of lenticular gypsic crystallitic and isles fabrics are
the results of these processes. Considering soil data and new taxonomic propos-
als Ž Eswaran and Zi-Tong, 1991; Herrero et al., 1992. the soil would be
classified as a hypergypsic.
222 N. Toomanian et al.r Geoderma 99 (2001) 199–224

Ž3. In the piedmont plain, a coarse loamy soil covers a loamy-skeletal

paleosol. Gypsum here accumulates mainly in the paleosol and in a few
centimeters around the bottom boundary of the upper soil. Fine and coarse
isolated euhedral lenticular gypsum crystals form in the soil groundmass and
voids of the paleosol. The related distribution pattern of CrF components of the
soil groundmass is porphyric and inequigranular idiotopic crystals’ fabric is
porphyrotopic Ž Fig. 18.. Accumulation of more gypsum in this soil increases the
size and number of crystals. Although the fabric of the 2By2 horizon is a
lenticular gypsic crystallitic fabric, a hypergypsic designation is not used. This is
because the gypsum amount is insufficient to meet hypergypsic criteria.

5. Conclusion

Field observations and laboratory analysis support the following conclusions:

1. Mountain runoff water is the first source for the soil gypsum.
2. Amounts of gypsum and thickness of gypsic horizons increase stepwise
from mountain front to the old dissected alluviums. Depths to these gypsic
horizons decrease across the same transect.
3. The physical environment largely determines the distribution, arrangement
and orientation patterns of the secondary gypsum crystals. Amounts of
gypsum, texture, structure, CrF relationship and void patterns also play a
considerable role in formation of different gypsic pedofeatures.
4. Although all crystals in gypsic pedofeatures are not completely distinctive,
they are secondary and lenticular.
5. Depths of existing gypsic horizons can be correlated with depth of
percolated water and depending on the amount of gypsum, different kinds
of gypsic horizons are formed.
6. Although it is not used, but field and micromorphologic observations
support designation of By1, By2 horizons in profile No. 9 and 2By2
horizon in profile No. 14 as hypergypsic horizons.
7. All oriented or arranged gypsum crystals without considering their size,
form and habitat have to be determined as secondary.


The first author wishes to thank the Iranian Research, Education and Exten-
sion Organization for providing him a postgraduate scholarship for his MSc
program, part of which is presented in this work. Grateful acknowledgments are
extended to reviewers for their constructive comments and suggestions.
N. Toomanian et al.r Geoderma 99 (2001) 199–224 223


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