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Structured heterogeneity in a marine terrace chronosequence: Upland mottling

February 19, 2016

Soil mottles generally are interpreted as a product of reducing conditions during periods of water saturation. The upland soils of the Santa Cruz, CA, marine terrace chronosequence display an evolving sequence of reticulate mottling from the youngest soil (65 ka) without mottles to the oldest soil (225 ka) with well-developed mottles. The mottles consist of an interconnected network of clay and C-enriched regions (gray, 2.5Y 6/1) bordered by leached parent material (white, 2.5Y 8/1) within a diminishing matrix of oxidized parent material (orange, 7.5YR 5/8). The mottles develop in soils that formed from relatively uniform nearshore sediments and occur below the depth of soil bioturbation. To explore how a presumably wetland feature occurs in an unsaturated upland soil, physical and chemical characteristics of mottle separates (orange, gray, and white) were compared through the deep time represented by the soil chronosequence. Mineralogical, isotopic, and surface-area differences among mottle separates indicate that rhizogenic centimeter-scale mass transfer acting across millennia is an integral part of weathering, pedogenesis, and C and nutrient transfer. Elemental analysis, electron microscopy, and Fe-isotope systematics indicate that mottle development is driven by deep roots together with their fungal and microbial symbionts. Taken together, these data suggest that deep soil horizons on old stable landforms can develop reticulate mottling as the long-term imprint of rhizospheric processes. The processes of rhizogenic mottle formation appear to regulate pedogenesis, nutrients, and C sequestration at depth in unsaturated zones.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2016
Title Structured heterogeneity in a marine terrace chronosequence: Upland mottling
DOI 10.2136/vzj2015.07.0102
Authors Marjorie S. Schulz, David A. Stonestrom, Corey R. Lawrence, Thomas D. Bullen, John Fitzpatrick, Emily Kyker-Snowman, Jane Manning, Meagan Mnich
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Vadose Zone Journal
Index ID 70168641
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization National Research Program - Western Branch