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Landscape evolution in Val Mulix, eastern Swiss Alps – soil chemical and mineralogical analyses as age proxies


Böhlert, R; Mirabella, A; Plötze, M; Egli, M (2011). Landscape evolution in Val Mulix, eastern Swiss Alps – soil chemical and mineralogical analyses as age proxies. Catena, 87(3):313-325.

Abstract

Towards the end of the last glacial cycle, repeated re-advances of valley glaciers in the European Alps combined with periglacial processes led to the formation of a variety of climate-related landforms. Independent age measurements of moraines and rock glacier lobes using both in-situ produced and meteoric 10Be allows for the use of soil formation as an age proxy. In this complementary study we present chemical and mineralogical data from five Podzols from Val Mulix in Eastern Switzerland. Two of them developed on granitic Lateglacial moraines (14.9 ka and 10.7 ka, respectively) and three were sampled on lobes of a morphostratigraphically connected relict rock glacier, covering an age range of approx. 10.7 ka to 8.6 ka. Besides the evaluation of the suitability of selected pedosignatures for a relative age separation, we hypothesised that these pedosignatures should give further information about the evolution of the specific sites. Although the soils had a high skeleton content and the oldest soil started its development in a slightly colder climatic phase, typical weathering trends could still be detected. Whereas weathering indices such as the (K + Ca)/Ti ratio or the B-index reflect time trends reasonably well, the mineralogical composition of the fine earth and clay fraction yielded a slightly more inconsistent picture; to a lesser extent, some inconsistencies were also exhibited when using the weathering mass balance approach. This is especially true for the relict rock glacier and it supports the suggested complex development history of these soils as well as the presence of pre-weathered material. Techniques that include several surface soil horizons and the soil skeleton such as the (K + Ca)/Ti ratio, the B-index and the mass balance approach gave more robust results (in terms of the expected chronology) than the ones that only referred to single horizons (clay mineralogy). Errors or variations due to potential reallocation processes within the soil horizons but without a prominent change of the overall soil characteristics are minimised using such an approach. Weathering indexes and the clay mineral assemblage provided a differentiation of soils even within a relatively narrow time range and gave insight into processes that have occurred at the specific sites. The combined relative-numerical dating approach used here not only enables an extended interpretation and mutual control, but ultimately leads to a better understanding of landscape reconstruction and evolution.

Towards the end of the last glacial cycle, repeated re-advances of valley glaciers in the European Alps combined with periglacial processes led to the formation of a variety of climate-related landforms. Independent age measurements of moraines and rock glacier lobes using both in-situ produced and meteoric 10Be allows for the use of soil formation as an age proxy. In this complementary study we present chemical and mineralogical data from five Podzols from Val Mulix in Eastern Switzerland. Two of them developed on granitic Lateglacial moraines (14.9 ka and 10.7 ka, respectively) and three were sampled on lobes of a morphostratigraphically connected relict rock glacier, covering an age range of approx. 10.7 ka to 8.6 ka. Besides the evaluation of the suitability of selected pedosignatures for a relative age separation, we hypothesised that these pedosignatures should give further information about the evolution of the specific sites. Although the soils had a high skeleton content and the oldest soil started its development in a slightly colder climatic phase, typical weathering trends could still be detected. Whereas weathering indices such as the (K + Ca)/Ti ratio or the B-index reflect time trends reasonably well, the mineralogical composition of the fine earth and clay fraction yielded a slightly more inconsistent picture; to a lesser extent, some inconsistencies were also exhibited when using the weathering mass balance approach. This is especially true for the relict rock glacier and it supports the suggested complex development history of these soils as well as the presence of pre-weathered material. Techniques that include several surface soil horizons and the soil skeleton such as the (K + Ca)/Ti ratio, the B-index and the mass balance approach gave more robust results (in terms of the expected chronology) than the ones that only referred to single horizons (clay mineralogy). Errors or variations due to potential reallocation processes within the soil horizons but without a prominent change of the overall soil characteristics are minimised using such an approach. Weathering indexes and the clay mineral assemblage provided a differentiation of soils even within a relatively narrow time range and gave insight into processes that have occurred at the specific sites. The combined relative-numerical dating approach used here not only enables an extended interpretation and mutual control, but ultimately leads to a better understanding of landscape reconstruction and evolution.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Language:English
Date:2011
Deposited On:06 Dec 2011 14:09
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 15:13
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0341-8162
Publisher DOI:10.1016/j.catena.2011.06.013
Permanent URL: http://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-52581

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