Abstract

A thick Ordovician intra-rhyolitic palaeosol was studied to investigate the peculiarities of early Palaeozoic continental environments, shortly before the development of vascular plants, and to compare its pedogenic patterns with those of previously studied intra-basaltic profiles from the same succession. Well-defined K-eluviation from the top of the palaeosol is proportionally met by K-illuviation at the base of the profile, a pedogenic behaviour that was masked in the underlying intra-basaltic profiles due to subsequent eodiagenetic K-enrichment associated with rhyolite emplacement. Greater stability of K (and eventually Mg) than Si in the intra-rhyolitic profile suggests high pH soil water at the time of pedogenesis despite the low base contents of the acidic host rock, and despite evidence for humid weathering conditions. We also observe that, at the base and at the top of the profile, Al2O3/Zr ratios are substantially lower than those of the host rock, suggesting Al-leaching and therefore extreme weathering conditions, whereas the middle portion of the profile shows Al2O3/Zr ratios that are similar to those of the host rock, suggesting Al stability and therefore less extreme conditions. We interpret these variations in Al2O3/Zr ratios as signatures of a cyclic change from sub-humid periods during which Al was stable throughout the profile, to more humid periods with a well-defined seasonality, during which only the juvenile zone of weathering at the base of the profile could have developed sufficiently high pH during dry seasons for Al to be leached, leaving the Al2O3/Zr signatures from previous stages untouched higher in the profile.

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