New Mexico Geological Society Annual Spring Meeting
April 13, 2018

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Effects of Regional Climate Differences on Rates of Soil Development: Insights From Well-Dated Chronosequences in the Rio Grande Rift

Brad Sion1, Bruce Harrison1, Fred Phillips1 and Gary Axen1

1New Mexico Tech, 801 Leroy Place, Socorro, NM, New Mexico, 87801, United States,

Rates of soil development provide important information about geomorphic and landscape evolutionary processes. Soil development in arid and semiarid regions of the southwestern United States is predominantly controlled by influx of eolian dust, yet our ability to quantify the rates of dust and carbonate incorporation into these calcic soils is limited by available age control. We described 10 soil profiles in the Socorro area of central New Mexico and analyzed their silt, clay, and carbonate contents. These soils have well-established direct- or indirect-age control that is used to compute rates of dust and carbonate accumulation for durations of ~0.5-800 ka. We also compute the profile development index (PDI) for these soils and compare our chronofunction to PDIs from northern and southern New Mexico. Principal components analysis identifies four dominant soil properties that explain variations in soil age; total texture, color lightening, dry consistence, and CaCO3 stage morphology, supporting models of soil development by incorporation of eolian dust. We find that the net silt-and-clay contents in B horizons of progressively older soils increases at rates similar to the profile-mass carbonate contents. Our power-law regressions for these properties yield slopes of 0.34 and 0.30, respectively. We find a similar slope of 0.32 for our power-law regression through the PDI data. A well-dated chronofunction from the Los Alamos area in northern New Mexico indicates that soil development occurs more rapidly in higher latitude regions of New Mexico than in the Socorro area and farther south. We interpret this trend in light of a regional climate gradient manifested by greater mean annual precipitation and cooler mean annual temperatures at higher latitudes and/or slower rates of eolian dust accumulation into the soil profile. This would promote greater mobility of available silt and clay, and also drive faster rates of in-situ weathering, as indicated by the presence of argillans in late-Pleistocene soils of northern New Mexico.


Soil geomorphology; calcic soils, soil chronosequence

pp. 70

2018 New Mexico Geological Society Annual Spring Meeting
April 13, 2018, Macey Center, New Mexico Tech campus, Socorro, NM