Soil development on sediments and evaporites of the Messinian crisis

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Abstract

Vast areas in the Mediterranean are characterised by evaporite deposits of the Messinian crises (c. 6–5.3 Ma BP). During this period, large deposits were built up in shallow lagoon-like systems and are now found in southern Italy, Albania, Cyprus and Turkey. So far, soil formation on evaporites has been studied predominantly in subarid to arid environments. Although the formation of soils has received new significance, little is known about the evolutional trajectories on evaporites of the Mediterranean. We therefore studied soil formation in the Caltanissetta basin (Sicily) where evaporites are most widespread. The lithologies included the sequence: marine clay deposits, laminated marl (diatomite; Tripoli sediments), Calcare di Base (limestone), detritic deposits, gypsum (selenite). The chemical signature (immobile elements, rare earth elements) indicated that they all have a similar origin. Surprisingly, both an increasing Corg and carbonate content in the soils caused a decrease in the 13C signal in carbonates and in part in the bulk soil. The low 13C and 18O values of carbonates in the parent material indicate a high rock-water (or meteoric water) interaction that has occurred during sedimentation and diagenesis. Organic matter was oxidised into the shallow lagoon-like systems and its carbon incorporated in the limestone. Elemental leaching from silicates during pedogenesis was most intense in the soils that developed on clays and Tripoli sediments. Vertisols and Mollisols have evolved, together with a high amount of oxyhydroxides (non- crystalline and crystalline forms) and kaolinite. Only weak soil formation was recognisable at sites having gypsiferous parent material. The presence of a high amount of selenite hindered a more advanced evolution. The soils developed on detritic and gypsiferous material exhibited some palygorskite that was inherited from the parent material. At sites having selenite or limestone, shallow Aridisols or Mollisols are found. Weathering is weakly pronounced, e.g. indicated by a high proportion of trioctahedral minerals. Besides inheritance from the parent material, smectite and kaolinite are also actively formed in the soils with increasing weathering. Plagioclase and mica are the main sources of smectite and K-feldspar is a main source of kaolinite neo-formation. The evaporite deposits vary greatly within short distances causing a high spatial diversity of soils. Consequently, soil quality strongly varies, which challenges agricultural use. Well-developed soil profiles and advanced weathering stages are only possible when marine clays, Tripoli sediments or detritic deposits are the parent material. Limestone (Calcare di Base) and gypsiferous sediments (selenite) strongly limit soil formation and mineral transformation.
Lingua originaleEnglish
Numero di pagine16
RivistaCatena
Stato di pubblicazionePublished - 2019

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