Abstract

Paleosol properties are routinely characterized by whole-rock geochemistry, compromising the interpretation of important biogeochemical information in deep time. As a consequence, we employ a new pedotransfer function approach to the characterization of paleosols and apply this methodology to Late Cretaceous (Campanian and Maastrichtian) and early Paleocene (Danian) landscapes from the Dawson Creek study area of the western interior to: (1) reconstruct collodially based physical and chemical soil properties, and (2) assess climate and soil biogeochemical controls on evolving terrestrial ecosystems. Nine paleoseries (i.e., pedotypes) characterize the range of soil properties within the fluvial stratigraphic succession, which includes Entisols, Inceptisols, and Vertisols. All soils had optimal water-holding potential as inferred from low bulk densities, whereas poorly drained and colonizing landscapes likely suffered from poor aeration during seasonal water logging. Even with high water-holding capacity, Maastrichtian soils experienced seasonal moisture stress because of lower rainfall than Campanian and Danian soils. Fertility levels were sufficient for the growth of most plants judging from high cation exchange capacity and base saturation, negligible aluminum toxicities because of nonacid pH, and limited salinity and sodicity from relatively low exchangeable sodium and soluble salts in solution. Unlike warm-temperate and forested paleosols with neutral pH from the Campanian and Danian, subtropical and alkaline paleosols from the Maastrichtian apparently supported a woodland plant formation adapted to low availability of iron and manganese, which were fixed with calcium in carbonate, and low availability of phosphorous because it formed insoluble compounds with iron and manganese. Carbon, nitrogen, phosphorous, and sulfur cycling through microbially mediated mineralization of soil organic matter was limited from low litter inputs in both early and midsuccessional ecosystems, particularly in woodland soils. Results do not reveal demonstrable changes in soil characteristics through the K-T transition.

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