Broadening theories of soils genesis: Insights from Tanzania and simple models
Little, Mark Gabriel
Lee, Cin-Ty A.
Doctor of Philosophy
Three basic assumptions of soil formation are challenged herein: the degree of chemical weathering decreases with depth; increased physical weathering due to high topographical gradients causes an increase in chemical weathering; and the mineral soil derives from the transformation of in situ parent material. The first part presents an investigation into the degree and nature of chemical weathering during soil formation on a volcanic substrate on Mt. Kilimanjaro in northern Tanzania. The degree of weathering was found to increase with depth in the soil profile. Observations show that the upper and lower layers of the weathering profile have undergone different weathering histories. The presence of a buried paleosol or enhanced weathering due to lateral subsurface water flow may explain the observations, the latter having novel implications for the transport of dissolved cations to the ocean. The second part presents a model to test the link between chemical weathering associated with soil formation and erosion associated with mass wasting. The predicted ratios suspended/dissolved ratios, however, are all higher than observed in rivers, the discrepancy worsening with increasing topographic relief. This discrepancy arises from the fact that in regions of high relief, mass wasting are so high that soil mantles do not reside on hillslopes long enough to allow for significant chemical weathering. The discrepancy between the model and observations can be explained by: over-estimate of predicted suspended load; absence of chemical weathering of deltaic/alluvial sediments from the model; or chemical weathering associated with groundwater weathering. The third part presents data from a sequential extraction on a basaltic soil from Mt. Meru in Northern Tanzania. The behavior of relatively immobile elements is consistent with soil formation being accompanied by mass loss due to chemical weathering. However, superimposed on this mass loss appears to be enrichment of most elements measured. These data suggest that the surface of the Meru soil columns may have experienced "re-fertilization" by the deposition of volcanic ash.