Soil and Landscape Memory of Climate Change–How Sensitive, How Connected?:
H. Curtis Monger, David M. Rachal, 2013. "Soil and Landscape Memory of Climate Change–How Sensitive, How Connected?: ", New Frontiers in Paleopedology and Terrestrial Paleoclimatology: Paleosols and Soil Surface Analog Systems, Steven G. Driese, Lee C. Nordt
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Paleosols are important sources of information about climate change. They carry a “memory” of past environments as features such as pedogenic carbonate, carbon isotopes, profile depth, and degree of chemical weathering. Certain features, such as soil organic matter, are more rapidly adjusting (i.e., sensitive) to climate change than are other features, such as mineralogy which are slowly adjusting (i.e., resistant) to climate change, but have a longer memory. In addition, the landscape itself carries a memory of climate change through features such as patterned ground, dune fields, glacial moraines, and lake shorelines. As is the case for soils, some landscapes are more sensitive to climate change than others, and provide better sedimentary and paleosol records. A semiarid grassland on a sand sheet, for example, is more sensitive to climate change and will produce a better paleosol record than a neighboring semiarid grassland on a low-gradient terrain of bedrock outcrop. Landscapes and soil profiles are connected to each other, to the aboveground ecosystem, and to climate as a complex adaptive system. A perturbation to the system can change vegetative cover, initiate erosion, and leave a record in paleosols as both “soil memory” and “lithomemory” (i.e., sedimentary deposits vertically separated by paleosols). A systematic examination of soil memory and lithomemory can be used as a prospecting tool for finding paleosols with high resolution paleoclimatic records. Some of the best paleosol records are in landscapes with erodible regolith and topographic relief, where soil memory develops during periods of landscape stability and lithomemory develops during intervening periods of landscape instability when erosion and sedimentation rates are highest.
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New Frontiers in Paleopedology and Terrestrial Paleoclimatology: Paleosols and Soil Surface Analog Systems
After initial breakthroughs in the discovery of fossil soils, or paleosols in the 1970s and early 1980s, the last several decades of intensified research have revealed the much greater role that these deposits can play in reconstructing ancient Earth surface systems. Research currently focuses on terrestrial paleoclimatology, in which climates of the past are reconstructed at temporal scales ranging from hundreds to millions of years, using paleosols as archives of that information. Such research requires interdisciplinary study of soils conducted in both modern and ancient environments. These issues and many others were discussed at the joint SEPM-NSF Workshop “Paleosols and Soil Surface Analog Systems”, held at Petrified Forest National Park.