Deformational Mass Transport and Invasive Processes in Soil Evolution

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Science  07 Feb 1992:
Vol. 255, Issue 5045, pp. 695-702
DOI: 10.1126/science.255.5045.695


Soils are differentiated vertically by coupled chemical, mechanical, and biological transport processes. Soil properties vary with depth, depending on the subsurface stresses, the extent of mixing, and the balance between mass removal in solution or suspension and mass accumulation near the surface. Channels left by decayed roots and burrowing animals allow organic and inorganic detritus and precipitates to move through the soil from above. Accumulation occurs at depths where small pores restrict further passage. Consecutive phases of translocation and root growth stir the soil; these processes constitute an invasive dilatational process that leads to positive cumulative strains. In contrast, below the depth of root penetration and mass additions, mineral dissolution by descending organic acids leads to internal collapse under overburden load. This softened and condensed precursor horizon is transformed into soil by biological activity, which stirs and expands the evolving residuum by invasion by roots and macropore networks that allows mixing of materials from above.