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Major and trace element geochemistry and background concentrations for soils in Connecticut

January 1, 2014

Soil samples were collected throughout Connecticut (CT) to determine the relationship of soil chemistry with the underlying geology and to better understand background concentrations of major and trace elements in soils. Soil samples were collected (1) from the upper 5 cm of surficial soil at 100 sites, (2) from the A horizon at 86 of these sites, and (3) from the deeper horizon, typically the C horizon, at 79 of these sites. The <2-millimeter fraction of each sample was analyzed for 44 elements by methods that yield the total or near-total elemental content. Sample sites were characterized by glacial setting, underlying bedrock geology, and soil type. These spatial data were used with element concentrations in the C-horizon to relate geologic factors to soil chemistry.

Concentrations of elements in C-horizon soils varied with grain size in surficial glacial materials and with underlying rock types, as determined using nonparametric statistical procedures. Concentrations of most elements in C-horizon soils showed a positive correlation with silt and (or) clay content and were higher in surficial materials mapped as till, thick till, and (or) fines. Element concentrations in C-horizon soils showed significant differences among the underlying geologic provinces and were highest overlying the Grenville Belt and (or) the Grenville Shelf Sequence Provinces in western CT. These rocks consist mainly of carbonates and the relatively high element concentrations in overlying soils likely result from less influence of dilution by quartz compared to other provinces. Element concentrations in C-horizon soils in CT were compared with those in samples from other New England states overlying similar lithologic bedrock types. The upper range of As concentrations in C-horizon soils overlying the New Hampshire-Maine (NH-ME) Sequence in CT was 15 mg/kg, lower than the upper range of 24 mg/kg in C-horizon soils overlying the same sequence in ME. In CT, U concentration means were significantly higher in C-horizon soils overlying Avalonian granites, and U concentrations ranged as high as 14 mg/kg, compared to those in C-horizon soil samples collected from other New England states, which ranged as high as 6.1 mg/kg in a sample in NH overlying the NH-ME Sequence.

Element concentrations in C-horizon soils in CT were compared with those in samples collected from shallower depths. Concentrations of most major elements were highest in C-horizon soil samples, including Al, Ca, Fe, K, Na, and Ti, but element concentrations showed a relatively similar pattern in A-horizon and surficial soil samples among the underlying geologic provinces. Trace element concentrations, including Ba, W, Ga, Ni, Cs, Rb, Sr, Th, Sc, and U, also were higher in C-horizon soil samples than in overlying soil samples. Concentrations of Mg, and several trace elements, including Mn, P, As, Nb, Sn, Be, Bi, Hg, Se, Sb, La, Co, Cr, Pb, V, Y, Cu, Pb, and Zn were highest in some A-horizon or surficial soils, and indicate possible contributions from anthropogenic sources. Because element concentrations in soils above the C horizon are more likely to be affected by anthropogenic factors, concentration ranges in C-horizon soils and their spatially varying geologic associations should be considered when estimating background concentrations of elements in CT soils.

Publication Year 2014
Title Major and trace element geochemistry and background concentrations for soils in Connecticut
Authors Craig J. Brown, Margaret A. Thomas
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Northeastern Geoscience
Index ID 70192418
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Connecticut Water Science Center