AP Environmental Science Unit 2 Part 4: Soils

Soil – complex mixture of weathered minerals materials from rocks, partially decomposed organic molecules, and a range of living organisms
– Not dirt! – Soil is a living resource (“It’s alive!!!”), an ecosystem

Approximately 20,000 soils in the U.S. alone

– Wide variety based on type of parent material, time, topography, climate, and organism present in soil – At best, ~10 tons per hectare per year (1 mm

Building soil is a slow process

 50%

Soil Composition and Texture
mineral

– Derived from parent material
 Underlying bedrock  Deposition (i.e., glaciers, rivers, ocean currents, windstorms, landslides)

 Other

50%

– – –

Air Water Organic matter from decomposition of organisms

 Particle

size is critical  Larger particles = more pores of greater size  Pores give soil drainage and aeration
– Loosely packed soils - good drainage and good aeration – Tightly packed soils – bad drainage and poor aeration

Soil Composition and Texture

 Soil

texture – the relative proportion of sand, silt, and clay in a soil sample
– Mineral composition

Soil Composition and Texture

 Depending

on a number of environmental factors, the soil can contain 0-100% OM
– Humus – brown, insoluble residue from the breakdown of organisms
 Provides nutrients  Development of structure and texture (facilitates soil clumping, maintains spacing between soil particles)

Soil Profiles
Soils are stratified into horizontal layers called soil horizons.
– O Horizon (Organic layer)
– Leaf litter, partially decomposed organisms. – Organic matter composition 20-30%

– A Horizon (Topsoil)
– – – – Mineral particles mixed with organic material. Most root activity Most biological productive zone Typically has a dark color (OM)

Soil Profiles
– E Horizon (Leached)

Soil horizons diagram

 Depleted of soluble nutrients.  Weak organic acids typically dissolve and remove silicate clay, aluminum, and iron  Residual material is quartz  Lighter color that A or B horizons

– B Horizon (Subsoil)
 Often dense texture from accumulating nutrients.  Well-developed examples are bright in color

– C Horizon (Parent Material)
 Weathered rock fragments with little organic material.

Soil: Man- vs. nature-made

Terra preta – soils created by Amazonian natives – Also referred to a terra preta do Indio (“Indian dark earth”) – Very dark, organic rich soil that can withstand rain erosion – Can support long-term agriculture, as opposed to natural soils which are nutrient poor and useless several years after being logged – Mixture of inorganic material + charcoal + a potentially unique assemblage of microorganisms + pottery shards and fragments – Another version, called terra mulata, is lighter in color and does not contain pottery shards

Soil in Georgia
 Primary

example: “Georgia Red Clay”

– Old soil that has experienced a great deal of leaching – Most nutrients have been stripped from the “soil”, mostly leaving behind iron, aluminum, and silica – Iron is oxidized and gives soils their characteristic color – Warm temperate to semi-tropical climate increases rate of organic matter decomposition

Wetland Soils

Hydric soils – soils that formed under conditions of saturation, flooding, or ponding long enough during the growing season to develop anaerobic conditions in the upper part (USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service, 1998) Two types of wetland soils:
– Mineral soils – less than 20-35% OM, typically neutral pH, low porosity
 Examples: riparian forests and some marshes

– Organic soils – greater than 20-25% OM, acidic, high porosity
 Examples: Northern Peatlands

Soil Loss
   

Problem is not limited to Georgia; although we do have a historical problem with the issue Soil loss is an national and international problem Map of worldwide soil loss Human use of soils and human induced erosion are the causes of erosion – Both water and air driving erosion Use of land is severely impaired – Potentially leading to the complete loss of this land from human use – New deserts forming

Soil Particle Sizes
Classification Gravel Sand Silt Clay Size (mm) 2 – 64 0.05 – 2 0.002 – 0.05 < 0.002

Soil Texture Triangle

Soil profile

Global Soil Degradation

Soil Orders
Order Histosol Vertisol Entisol Spodosol Inceptisol Alfisol Ultisol Oxisol Mollisol Andisols Gelisols Aridisol Meaning Tissue or organic Inverted soil Recent soil Ashy soil Inception or younger soil Relates to metal mov’t Ultimately leached soil Oxide soil Soft soil Frozen soil Arid soil