Dynamics of Soil Formation
Further notes on chemical weathering
Weathering of primary minerals produce secondary minerals. o Primary minerals are formed at high temperature and pressure, under reducing conditions without free oxygen. These minerals are mainly present in soils as sand and silt particles. They are not crystalized and deposed from molten lava (e.g. quartz, feldspars, primary mica, pyroxene, olivine). o Secondary minerals are formed at low temperature and pressure through oxidation. They are the weathering product of primary minerals, either through alteration of their
structure or through re-precipitation. Secondary minerals are usually present in soil as clay particles (e.g. silicate clay). The difference between physical and chemical weathering is that with the latter one the mineral composition of the mineral or rock is changed. o Chemical weathering occurs at the surfaces of rocks, thus, the greater the surface area, the more intense the weathering. Thus the breaking of rock into smaller pieces by mechanical weathering greatly accelerates chemical weathering. o Elements released from primary minerals are prone to leaching if they do not form complexes.
Water is an excellent solvent, capable of dissolving many chemical compounds. o This is the result of polar nature of water molecules, i.e., the oxygen end has a small negative charge whereas the hydrogen end has a small positive charge. o For example, halite (HCl) readily dissolves in water. As the water molecules come in contact with halite, the negative
ends attack the sodium ions and the positive ends attach the chloride ions. In addition, CO2 in the atmosphere and soils reacts with water to produce carbonic acid. o H2O + CO2 = H2CO3 o The carbonic acid readily reacts with calcite (e.g. in limestone and marble): CaCO3 + H2CO3 = CA2+ + 2 H2CO3Different parent materials weather differently
Water (H2O) combines with compounds in rocks, causing a chemical change in a mineral’s structure that will physically alter a mineral’s grain surface and edges. o A good example of this is the mineral Anhydrite (CaSO4). Anhydrite chemically changes to Gypsum (CaSO4-2H2O) when water is added. o A second example: intact water molecules bind to a mineral transforming hematite into ferrihydrate:
o Chlorides and sulfates weather due to hydration.
This chemical weathering process occurs when water (H2O), usually in the form of precipitation, disrupts the chemical composition and
size of a mineral and creates less stable minerals, thus less stable rocks, that weather more readily. H+ or OH- replaces an ion in the mineral. o It is the most common weathering process. o Water molecules at the mineral surface dissociate into H+ and OH- and the mobile H+ ions penetrate the crystal lattice, creating a charge imbalance, which causes cations such as Ca2+, Mg2+, K+, and Na+ to diffuse out. Hydrolysis is the reaction of acidic solutions with the most common mineral group, silicates. For example, the weathering of K-feldspar of granite is as follows.
2KAlSi3O8 + 2(H+ + HCO3-) + H2O = Al2Si2O5(OH)4 + 2K+ + 2HCO3- + 4SiO2
K-feldspar carbonic acid kaolinite in solution silica A product of the chemical breakdown of K-feldspar is clay mineral, kaolinite, which is very stable at the surface. Consequently, clay minerals make up high percentage of soils.
This process occurs when oxygen combines with compound elements in rocks to form oxides. When an object is chemically altered in this manner it is weakened and appears as “oxidized.” o A good example of this is a “rusting” sign post. The iron in the metal post is oxidizing. Increased temperatures and the presence of precipitation will accelerate the oxidation process.
o OR the transformation of iron compounds: 4Fe+2 + 3O2 = 2Fe2O3 ferrous iron + oxygen combine to form ferric iron oxide (hematite) o Minerals that contain Fe, Mn, or S are especially susceptible to oxidation-reduction reactions.
Dissolution is very common in areas that have a great deal of limestone. Acid waters (from pollution or natural) dissolve limestone allowing for additional water to gain entrance. Can cause sinkholes and karst features as well as dissolution of statutes and grave stones. Water is capable of dissolving many minerals by hydrating the cations and anions until they become dissociated from each other and surrounded by water molecules (e.g. dissolution of gypsum):
Carbonation weathering is accelerated by the presence of acids that increase the activity of hydrogen ions in water. o For example, when carbon dioxide dissolves in water (a process enhanced by microbial and root respiration) the carbonic acid (H2CO3) produced hastens the chemical dissolution of calcite into limestone (or marble):
Classification of parent materials
Parent materials are often classified according to the mode of placement in their current location. These are: Residual – parent material formed in place from rock Colluvial – parent material transported by gravity Alluvial – parent material transported by rivers Marine – parent material transported by oceans (currents, tides)
Lacustrine – parent material transported by lakes Glacial – parent material transported by ice Eolian – parent material transported by wind Organic – parent material accumulated plant debris
Classification of parent materials – site deposition
Residual plant material develops in place through the weathering of the
underlying bedrock. Colluvial debris – or colluvium – consists of poorly sorted rock fragments detached from higher heights and that come tumbling down slopes, mostly by the force of gravity (assisted in some cases by frost).
Classification of parent materials – water deposition
Alluvial stream deposits – there are three general classes of alluvial deposits
Floodplains – This is the portion of a river valley that is inundated during flood episodes (spring run-off; seasonal). Coarse materials
can be found in the deeper or faster current parts of the flooded areas and the finer particles settled in the shallower, slow current areas. Each major flooding episode lays down a distinctive layer of sediment. These materials are highly fertile. Alluvial fans – These form where streams open up from a narrow valley to a more open area. The sediment spreads out like a fan. Delta deposits – These are fan-like areas at the mouths of rivers of sediment carried down the river. These are highly fertile. Marine sediments – Streams eventually deposit their sediment loads into oceans, estuaries, and gulfs. Over time these sediments build up. And if there is a change in either the sea level or structure of the land mass, these sediments can be raised above the sea level become coastal plains where they become exposed to the processes of soil formation. Marine deposits are highly variable in terms of their texture. They can be sandy while other can be high in clay. You can have
alternating layers of different textured sediments depending on the conditions of each period. Lacustrine deposits – These operate the same way as marine sediments do, except with lakes instead of oceans.
Classification of parent materials – wind deposition
Eolian deposits – Exposed soil can be gathered up by winds and transported
sometimes thousands of kilometers to another site where it is deposited. Winds can carry vast amounts of such materials. There are four principle types of Eolian deposits: o Loess – This is primarily silt with some very find sand and clay. o Dune sand – You can see these along coastal areas (oceans and large lakes) where strong winds pick up medium and fine sand and create hills of sand. o Aerosolic dust – These very fine materials can be transported thousands of kilometers. These are known as dust because it is suspended in the air. o Volcanic ash
Classification of parent materials – glacial deposition
Glacial deposits – I’ve already talked about the importance of glaciation to
both Ontario’s landscape and the nature of its soils. During the Pleistocene Period you had a series of glacial periods with ice sheets covering our entire province plus much more. As the glacial ice pushed forward, the existing regolith, with much of the mantle, was swept away. Hills were rounded. Valleys were filled in with debris. There are two types of glacial deposits: o Glacial till and associated debris – The term drift is used to describe all materials of glacial origin (deposited by either the ice itself or the waters during the melting of the ice caps). That material deposited directly by the ice is called glacial
till. This till is highly heterogeneous (mixed) in terms of the materials. Much of this material is deposited in irregular ridges called moraines. o Glacial outwash and lacustrine sediments – The vast amounts of water released from the ice sheets during their melting carried vast loads of sediments too. This sediment formed outwash plains. The sediment is often characterized by its sand and gravel. It also settles as valley fill.
Classification of parent materials – organic deposition
Organic deposits – These occur where organic material accumulates in wet
places and where plant growth exceeds the rate of residue decomposition. This results in an accumulation of organic materials. These materials sink into the trapped water where its decomposition is retarded due to the limited availability of oxygen. These deposits are called peat. There are four types of peat: Moss peat – the remains of mosses Herbaceous peat – the residues of herbaceous plants (sedges, reeds, cattails) Woody peat – dominated by the remains of woody plants (including trees and shrubs) Sedimentary peat – dominated by the remains of aquatic plants (algae) and fecal materials of aquatic animals