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Soil geomorphology and frozen ground conditions at a subalpine talus slope having permafrost in the eastern Swiss Alps


Kneisel, Christof; Emmert, Adrian; Polich, Pascale; Zollinger, Barbara; Egli, Markus (2015). Soil geomorphology and frozen ground conditions at a subalpine talus slope having permafrost in the eastern Swiss Alps. Catena, 133:107-118.

Abstract

At a subalpine site with permafrost below the timberline in the eastern Swiss Alps the complex interrelationship between different environmental factors was investigated by applying an integrated approach that combines soil mapping, 3D near-surface geophysics and surface and subsurface temperature monitoring. The objectives of this approach were to explore the 3D extension of isolated permafrost bodies and to relate this to surface parameters such as soils and humus forms and other extrinsic factors. Using this procedure, interdependencies between surface (soil properties and humus forms) and subsurface factors (ground thermal regime and frozen ground conditions) could be independently analysed. Although time-consuming, 3D ERI (electrical resistivity imaging) demonstrated its ability for precise permafrost mapping. Despite climate warming, super-cooling in winter along the investigated scree slopes is still efficient enough for establishing permafrost conditions. By comparing the spatial dimensions of the permafrost bodies with surface conditions, we found that thick moss or organic litter layers had an insulating effect and prevented the permafrost from melting. However, the comparison of soil units and soil thickness with the permafrost distribution did not always show an obvious relationship. This indicates that there is a complex evolution and behaviour of soils and permafrost at such sites.

Abstract

At a subalpine site with permafrost below the timberline in the eastern Swiss Alps the complex interrelationship between different environmental factors was investigated by applying an integrated approach that combines soil mapping, 3D near-surface geophysics and surface and subsurface temperature monitoring. The objectives of this approach were to explore the 3D extension of isolated permafrost bodies and to relate this to surface parameters such as soils and humus forms and other extrinsic factors. Using this procedure, interdependencies between surface (soil properties and humus forms) and subsurface factors (ground thermal regime and frozen ground conditions) could be independently analysed. Although time-consuming, 3D ERI (electrical resistivity imaging) demonstrated its ability for precise permafrost mapping. Despite climate warming, super-cooling in winter along the investigated scree slopes is still efficient enough for establishing permafrost conditions. By comparing the spatial dimensions of the permafrost bodies with surface conditions, we found that thick moss or organic litter layers had an insulating effect and prevented the permafrost from melting. However, the comparison of soil units and soil thickness with the permafrost distribution did not always show an obvious relationship. This indicates that there is a complex evolution and behaviour of soils and permafrost at such sites.

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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:2015
Deposited On:21 Jan 2016 12:48
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 19:59
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0341-8162
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.catena.2015.05.005

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