How can soil scientists tell the history of a location from a soil pit?


  • newswise-fullscreen How can soil scientists tell the history of a location from a soil pit?

    Credit: Ryan Schroeder

    The profile of the soil pit created by Ryan Schroeder for study. Under the grass is a loamy soil, with a fairly dark brown color, indicating organic matter content. The soil changes to a sandy loam, and then to a silty loam. The most dramatic finding was pieces of charcoal in a deeper layer. Remnants of past civilization? Evidence of cryoturbation? Only further study will tell. The scientists marked each horizon with sticks. (Grey lines added to aid the viewer)

Newswise — December 2, 2019 – There are many reasons why soil scientists dig soil pits. They all revolve around collecting information to address a question or a management problem. And sometimes they hold more questions than answers. The Soil Science Society of America’s (SSSA) December 1st Soils Matter blog looks at one soil scientist’s experience that left more questions than answers in Colorado.

“In the summer of 2017, I was working as a range technician for the U.S. Forest Service, Bighorn National Forest in northern Wyoming,” says blogger Ryan Schroeder. He and another scientist needed collect a trail cam that was monitoring animal populations in “The Bowl” near Bald Ridge. While there, they dug a soil pit to “practice our soil description skills. The soils in Bighorn impact the quality of the natural forage grasses that support grazing animals and the water quality of this National Forest. The Bowl is at about 10,000 feet in elevation.”

“We found a few gullies and erosional features around the foot slope of the ridge as it came down into The Bowl,” says Schroeder. And what they found was surprising: pieces of wood charcoal in the lower layer of the soil pit.

“Such a change in texture and soil color normally means that this bottom layer of soil was once at the top and was then buried.”

To learn more about soil scientists digging pits to learn about locations, read the entire post here: https://soilsmatter.wordpress.com/2019/12/01/how-can-soil-scientists-tell-the-history-of-a-location-from-a-soil-pit.  

Follow SSSA on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SSSA.soils, Twitter at SSSA_Soils. SSSA has soils information on www.soils.org/discover-soils, for teachers at www.soils4teachers.org, and for students through 12th grade, www.soils4kids.org.

The Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) is a progressive international scientific society that fosters the transfer of knowledge and practices to sustain global soils. Based in Madison, WI, and founded in 1936, SSSA is the professional home for 6,000+ members and 1,000+ certified professionals dedicated to advancing the field of soil science. The Society provides information about soils in relation to crop production, environmental quality, ecosystem sustainability, bioremediation, waste management, recycling, and wise land use.

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