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Soil chemistry in lithologically diverse datasets: the quartz dilution effect

January 1, 2009

National- and continental-scale soil geochemical datasets are likely to move our understanding of broad soil geochemistry patterns forward significantly. Patterns of chemistry and mineralogy delineated from these datasets are strongly influenced by the composition of the soil parent material, which itself is largely a function of lithology and particle size sorting. Such controls present a challenge by obscuring subtler patterns arising from subsequent pedogenic processes. Here the effect of quartz concentration is examined in moist-climate soils from a pilot dataset of the North American Soil Geochemical Landscapes Project. Due to variable and high quartz contents (6.2–81.7 wt.%), and its residual and inert nature in soil, quartz is demonstrated to influence broad patterns in soil chemistry. A dilution effect is observed whereby concentrations of various elements are significantly and strongly negatively correlated with quartz. Quartz content drives artificial positive correlations between concentrations of some elements and obscures negative correlations between others. Unadjusted soil data show the highly mobile base cations Ca, Mg, and Na to be often strongly positively correlated with intermediately mobile Al or Fe, and generally uncorrelated with the relatively immobile high-field-strength elements (HFS) Ti and Nb. Both patterns are contrary to broad expectations for soils being weathered and leached. After transforming bulk soil chemistry to a quartz-free basis, the base cations are generally uncorrelated with Al and Fe, and negative correlations generally emerge with the HFS elements. Quartz-free element data may be a useful tool for elucidating patterns of weathering or parent-material chemistry in large soil datasets.

Publication Year 2009
Title Soil chemistry in lithologically diverse datasets: the quartz dilution effect
DOI 10.1016/j.apgeochem.2009.04.013
Authors Carleton R. Bern
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Applied Geochemistry
Index ID 70140574
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse