Pedosphere

Pedosphere

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Encyclopedia
The pedosphere is the outermost layer of the Earth
Earth
Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and the densest and fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest of the Solar System's four terrestrial planets...

 that is composed of soil
Soil
Soil is a natural body consisting of layers of mineral constituents of variable thicknesses, which differ from the parent materials in their morphological, physical, chemical, and mineralogical characteristics...

 and subject to soil formation processes
Pedogenesis
Pedogenesis is the science and study of the processes that lead to the formation of soil ' and first explored by the Russian geologist Vasily Dokuchaev , the so called grandfather of soil science, who determined that soil formed over time as a consequence of...

. It exists at the interface of the lithosphere
Lithosphere
The lithosphere is the rigid outermost shell of a rocky planet. On Earth, it comprises the crust and the portion of the upper mantle that behaves elastically on time scales of thousands of years or greater.- Earth's lithosphere :...

, atmosphere
Earth's atmosphere
The atmosphere of Earth is a layer of gases surrounding the planet Earth that is retained by Earth's gravity. The atmosphere protects life on Earth by absorbing ultraviolet solar radiation, warming the surface through heat retention , and reducing temperature extremes between day and night...

, hydrosphere
Hydrosphere
A hydrosphere in physical geography describes the combined mass of water found on, under, and over the surface of a planet....

 and biosphere
Biosphere
The biosphere is the global sum of all ecosystems. It can also be called the zone of life on Earth, a closed and self-regulating system...

. The sum total of all the organisms, soils, water and air is termed as the "pedosphere". The pedosphere is the skin of the Earth and only develops when there is a dynamic interaction between the atmosphere (air in and above the soil), biosphere (living organisms), lithosphere (unconsolidated regolith and consolidated bedrock) and the hydrosphere (water in, on and below the soil). The pedosphere is the foundation of life on this planet. There is a realization that the pedosphere needs to be distinctly recognized as a dynamic interface of all terrestrial ecosystems and be integrated into the Earth System Science knowledge base. Also, the pedosphere needs to be studied, valued, enhanced and treated in a sustainable and an ethical manner.

The pedosphere acts as the mediator of chemical and biogeochemical flux into and out of these respective systems and is made up of gaseous, mineralic, fluid and biologic components. The pedosphere lies within the Critical Zone, a broader interface that includes vegetation
Vegetation
Vegetation is a general term for the plant life of a region; it refers to the ground cover provided by plants. It is a general term, without specific reference to particular taxa, life forms, structure, spatial extent, or any other specific botanical or geographic characteristics. It is broader...

, pedosphere, groundwater
Groundwater
Groundwater is water located beneath the ground surface in soil pore spaces and in the fractures of rock formations. A unit of rock or an unconsolidated deposit is called an aquifer when it can yield a usable quantity of water. The depth at which soil pore spaces or fractures and voids in rock...

 aquifer
Aquifer
An aquifer is a wet underground layer of water-bearing permeable rock or unconsolidated materials from which groundwater can be usefully extracted using a water well. The study of water flow in aquifers and the characterization of aquifers is called hydrogeology...

 systems, regolith
Regolith
Regolith is a layer of loose, heterogeneous material covering solid rock. It includes dust, soil, broken rock, and other related materials and is present on Earth, the Moon, some asteroids, and other terrestrial planets and moons.-Etymology:...

 and finally ends at some depth in the bedrock
Bedrock
In stratigraphy, bedrock is the native consolidated rock underlying the surface of a terrestrial planet, usually the Earth. Above the bedrock is usually an area of broken and weathered unconsolidated rock in the basal subsoil...

 where the biosphere and hydrosphere cease to make significant changes to the chemistry
Chemistry
Chemistry is the science of matter, especially its chemical reactions, but also its composition, structure and properties. Chemistry is concerned with atoms and their interactions with other atoms, and particularly with the properties of chemical bonds....

 at depth. As part of the larger global system, any particular environment in which soil
Soil
Soil is a natural body consisting of layers of mineral constituents of variable thicknesses, which differ from the parent materials in their morphological, physical, chemical, and mineralogical characteristics...

 forms is influenced solely by its geographic position on the globe as climatic, geologic, biologic and anthropogenic
Anthropogenic
Human impact on the environment or anthropogenic impact on the environment includes impacts on biophysical environments, biodiversity and other resources. The term anthropogenic designates an effect or object resulting from human activity. The term was first used in the technical sense by Russian...

 changes occur with changes in longitude
Longitude
Longitude is a geographic coordinate that specifies the east-west position of a point on the Earth's surface. It is an angular measurement, usually expressed in degrees, minutes and seconds, and denoted by the Greek letter lambda ....

 and latitude
Latitude
In geography, the latitude of a location on the Earth is the angular distance of that location south or north of the Equator. The latitude is an angle, and is usually measured in degrees . The equator has a latitude of 0°, the North pole has a latitude of 90° north , and the South pole has a...

.

The pedosphere lies below the vegetative cover of the biosphere and above the hydrosphere and lithosphere. The soil forming process (pedogenesis) can begin without the aid of biology but is significantly quickened in the presence of biologic reactions. Soil formation begins with the chemical and/or physical breakdown of minerals to form the initial material that overlies the bedrock substrate. Biology quickens this by secreting acidic compounds (dominantly fulvic acids) that help break rock apart. Particular biologic pioneers are lichen
Lichen
Lichens are composite organisms consisting of a symbiotic organism composed of a fungus with a photosynthetic partner , usually either a green alga or cyanobacterium...

, mosses and seed bearing plants but many other inorganic reactions take place that diversify the chemical makeup of the early soil layer. Once weathering
Weathering
Weathering is the breaking down of rocks, soils and minerals as well as artificial materials through contact with the Earth's atmosphere, biota and waters...

 and decomposition
Decomposition
Decomposition is the process by which organic material is broken down into simpler forms of matter. The process is essential for recycling the finite matter that occupies physical space in the biome. Bodies of living organisms begin to decompose shortly after death...

 products accumulate, a coherent soil body allows the migration of fluids both vertically and laterally through the soil profile causing ion exchange
Ion exchange
Ion exchange is an exchange of ions between two electrolytes or between an electrolyte solution and a complex. In most cases the term is used to denote the processes of purification, separation, and decontamination of aqueous and other ion-containing solutions with solid polymeric or mineralic 'ion...

 between solid, fluid and gaseous phases. As time progresses, the bulk geochemistry
Geochemistry
The field of geochemistry involves study of the chemical composition of the Earth and other planets, chemical processes and reactions that govern the composition of rocks, water, and soils, and the cycles of matter and energy that transport the Earth's chemical components in time and space, and...

 of the soil layer will deviate away from the initial composition of the bedrock and will evolve to a chemistry that reflects the type of reactions that take place in the soil.

Lithosphere



The primary conditions for soil development are controlled by the chemical composition of the rock that the soil will eventually be forming on. Rock types that form the base of the soil profile are often either sedimentary (carbonate or siliceous), igneous or metaigneous (metamorphosed igneous rocks) or volcanic and metavolcanic rocks. The rock type and the processes that lead to its exposure at the surface are controlled by the regional geologic setting of the specific area under study, which revolve around the underlying theory of plate tectonics
Plate tectonics
Plate tectonics is a scientific theory that describes the large scale motions of Earth's lithosphere...

, subsequent deformation, uplift
Tectonic uplift
Tectonic uplift is a geological process most often caused by plate tectonics which increases elevation. The opposite of uplift is subsidence, which results in a decrease in elevation. Uplift may be orogenic or isostatic.-Orogenic uplift:...

, subsidence
Subsidence
Subsidence is the motion of a surface as it shifts downward relative to a datum such as sea-level. The opposite of subsidence is uplift, which results in an increase in elevation...

 and deposition.

Metaigneous and metavolcanic rocks form the largest component of cratons and are high in silica. Igneous and volcanic rocks are also high in silica but with non-metamorphosed rock, weathering becomes faster and the mobilization of ions is more widespread. Rocks high in silica produce silicic acid as a weathering product. There are few rock types that lead to localized enrichment of some of the biologically limiting elements like phosphorus
Phosphorus
Phosphorus is the chemical element that has the symbol P and atomic number 15. A multivalent nonmetal of the nitrogen group, phosphorus as a mineral is almost always present in its maximally oxidized state, as inorganic phosphate rocks...

 (P) and nitrogen
Nitrogen
Nitrogen is a chemical element that has the symbol N, atomic number of 7 and atomic mass 14.00674 u. Elemental nitrogen is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, and mostly inert diatomic gas at standard conditions, constituting 78.08% by volume of Earth's atmosphere...

 (N). Phosphatic shale (<15% P2O5) and phosphorite (>15% P2O5) form in anoxic
Hypoxia (environmental)
Hypoxia, or oxygen depletion, is a phenomenon that occurs in aquatic environments as dissolved oxygen becomes reduced in concentration to a point where it becomes detrimental to aquatic organisms living in the system...

 deep water basins that preserve organic material. Greenstone (metabasalt), phyllite
Phyllite
Phyllite is a type of foliated metamorphic rock primarily composed of quartz, sericite mica, and chlorite; the rock represents a gradation in the degree of metamorphism between slate and mica schist. Minute crystals of graphite, sericite, or chlorite impart a silky, sometimes golden sheen to the...

 and schist
Schist
The schists constitute a group of medium-grade metamorphic rocks, chiefly notable for the preponderance of lamellar minerals such as micas, chlorite, talc, hornblende, graphite, and others. Quartz often occurs in drawn-out grains to such an extent that a particular form called quartz schist is...

 release up to 30-50% of the nitrogen pool. Thick successions of carbonate
Carbonate
In chemistry, a carbonate is a salt of carbonic acid, characterized by the presence of the carbonate ion, . The name may also mean an ester of carbonic acid, an organic compound containing the carbonate group C2....

 rocks are often deposited on craton
Craton
A craton is an old and stable part of the continental lithosphere. Having often survived cycles of merging and rifting of continents, cratons are generally found in the interiors of tectonic plates. They are characteristically composed of ancient crystalline basement rock, which may be covered by...

 margins during sea level rise. The widespread dissolution of carbonate and evaporate minerals leads to elevated levels of Mg2+, HCO3-, Sr2+, Na+, Cl- and SO42- ions in aqueous solution.

Weathering and dissolution of minerals



The process of soil formation is dominated by chemical weathering of silicate minerals, aided by acidic products of pioneering plants and organisms as well as carbonic acid inputs from the atmosphere. Carbonic acid is produced in the atmosphere and soil layers through the carbonation reaction.

H2O + CO2 → H++ HCO3- → H2CO3

This is the dominant form of chemical weathering and aides in the breakdown of carbonate minerals like calcite and dolomite and silicate minerals like feldspar
Feldspar
Feldspars are a group of rock-forming tectosilicate minerals which make up as much as 60% of the Earth's crust....

. The breakdown of the Na-feldspar, albite
Albite
Albite is a plagioclase feldspar mineral. It is the sodium endmember of the plagioclase solid solution series. As such it represents a plagioclase with less than 10% anorthite content. The pure albite endmember has the formula NaAlSi3O8. It is a tectosilicate. Its color is usually pure white, hence...

, by carbonic acid to form kaolinite
Kaolinite
Kaolinite is a clay mineral, part of the group of industrial minerals, with the chemical composition Al2Si2O54. It is a layered silicate mineral, with one tetrahedral sheet linked through oxygen atoms to one octahedral sheet of alumina octahedra...

 clay
Clay
Clay is a general term including many combinations of one or more clay minerals with traces of metal oxides and organic matter. Geologic clay deposits are mostly composed of phyllosilicate minerals containing variable amounts of water trapped in the mineral structure.- Formation :Clay minerals...

 is as follows:

2NaAlSi3O8 + 2H2CO3 + 9H2O → 2Na+ + 2HCO3- + 4H4SiO4 + Al2Si2O5(OH)4

Evidence of this reaction in the field would be elevated levels of bicarbonate
Bicarbonate
In inorganic chemistry, bicarbonate is an intermediate form in the deprotonation of carbonic acid...

 (HCO3-), sodium and silica ions in the water runoff.
The breakdown of carbonate minerals:

CaCO3 + H2CO3 → Ca2+ + 2HCO3- or CaCO3 → Ca2+ + CO32-

The further dissolution of carbonic acid (H2CO3) and bicarbonate (HCO3) produces CO2 gas. Oxidization is also a major contributor to the breakdown of many silicate minerals and formation of secondary minerals (diagenesis
Diagenesis
In geology and oceanography, diagenesis is any chemical, physical, or biological change undergone by a sediment after its initial deposition and during and after its lithification, exclusive of surface alteration and metamorphism. These changes happen at relatively low temperatures and pressures...

) in the early soil profile. Oxidation of Olivine
Olivine
The mineral olivine is a magnesium iron silicate with the formula 2SiO4. It is a common mineral in the Earth's subsurface but weathers quickly on the surface....

 (FeMgSiO2) releases Fe, Mg and Si ions. The Mg is soluble in water and is carried in the runoff but the Fe often reacts with oxygen to precipitate Fe2O3 (hematite
Hematite
Hematite, also spelled as haematite, is the mineral form of iron oxide , one of several iron oxides. Hematite crystallizes in the rhombohedral system, and it has the same crystal structure as ilmenite and corundum...

), the oxidized state of iron oxide. Sulfur, a byproduct of decaying organic material will also react to Fe to form pyrite
Pyrite
The mineral pyrite, or iron pyrite, is an iron sulfide with the formula FeS2. This mineral's metallic luster and pale-to-normal, brass-yellow hue have earned it the nickname fool's gold because of its resemblance to gold...

 (FeS2) but often in reducing environments. Pyrite dissolution leads to high pH
PH
In chemistry, pH is a measure of the acidity or basicity of an aqueous solution. Pure water is said to be neutral, with a pH close to 7.0 at . Solutions with a pH less than 7 are said to be acidic and solutions with a pH greater than 7 are basic or alkaline...

 levels due to elevated H+ ions and further precipitation of Fe2O3 ultimately changing the redox
Redox
Redox reactions describe all chemical reactions in which atoms have their oxidation state changed....

 conditions of the environment.

Biosphere



Inputs from the biosphere may begin with lichen and other microorganisms that secrete oxalic acid
Oxalic acid
Oxalic acid is an organic compound with the formula H2C2O4. This colourless solid is a dicarboxylic acid. In terms of acid strength, it is about 3,000 times stronger than acetic acid. Oxalic acid is a reducing agent and its conjugate base, known as oxalate , is a chelating agent for metal cations...

. These microorganisms, associated with the lichen community or independently inhabiting rocks, include a number of blue-green algae, green algae
Green algae
The green algae are the large group of algae from which the embryophytes emerged. As such, they form a paraphyletic group, although the group including both green algae and embryophytes is monophyletic...

, various fungi, and numerous bacteria
Bacteria
Bacteria are a large domain of prokaryotic microorganisms. Typically a few micrometres in length, bacteria have a wide range of shapes, ranging from spheres to rods and spirals...

. Lichen
Lichen
Lichens are composite organisms consisting of a symbiotic organism composed of a fungus with a photosynthetic partner , usually either a green alga or cyanobacterium...

 has long been viewed as the pioneers of soil development as the following statement suggests:

“The initial conversion of rock into soil is carried on by the pioneer lichens and their successors, the mosses, in which the hair-like rhizoids assume the role of roots in breaking down the surface into fine dust”

However, lichens are not necessarily the only pioneering organisms nor the earliest form of soil formation as it has been documented that seed-bearing plants may occupy an area and colonize quicker than lichen. Also, eolian sedimentation can produce high rates of sediment accumulation. Nonetheless, lichen can certainly withstand harsher conditions than most vascular plants and although they have slower colonization rates, do form the dominant group in alpine regions.

Acids released from plant roots include acetic and citric acids. During the decay of organic matter Phenolic acids are released from plant matter and humic and fulvic acids are released by soil microbes. These organic acids speed up chemical weathering by combining with some of the weathering products in a process known as chelation. In the soil profile, the organic acids are often concentrated at the top while carbonic acid plays a larger role towards the bottom or below in the aquifer.

As the soil column develops further into thicker accumulations, larger animals come to inhabit the soil and continue to alter the chemical evolution of their respective niche
Ecological niche
In ecology, a niche is a term describing the relational position of a species or population in its ecosystem to each other; e.g. a dolphin could potentially be in another ecological niche from one that travels in a different pod if the members of these pods utilize significantly different food...

. Earthworms aerate the soil and convert large amounts of organic matter into rich humus, improving soil fertility. Small burrowing mammal
Mammal
Mammals are members of a class of air-breathing vertebrate animals characterised by the possession of endothermy, hair, three middle ear bones, and mammary glands functional in mothers with young...

s store food, grow young and may hibernate in the pedosphere altering the course of soil evolution. Large mammalian herbivores above ground transport nutrients in form of nitrogen-rich waste and phosphorus-rich antlers while predators leave phosphorus-rich piles of bones on the soil surface, leading the localized enrichment of the soil below.

Redox conditions in wetland soils


Nutrient cycling in lakes and freshwater wetlands depends heavily on redox conditions. Under a few millimeters of water heterotrophic bacteria metabolize and consume oxygen. They therefore deplete the soil of oxygen and create the need for anaerobic respiration. Some anaerobic microbial processes include denitrification
Denitrification
Denitrification is a microbially facilitated process of nitrate reduction that may ultimately produce molecular nitrogen through a series of intermediate gaseous nitrogen oxide products....

, sulfate reduction and methanogenesis
Methanogenesis
Methanogenesis or biomethanation is the formation of methane by microbes known as methanogens. Organisms capable of producing methane have been identified only from the domain Archaea, a group phylogenetically distinct from both eukaryotes and bacteria, although many live in close association with...

 and are responsible for the release of N2 (nitrogen), H2S (hydrogen sulfide
Hydrogen sulfide
Hydrogen sulfide is the chemical compound with the formula . It is a colorless, very poisonous, flammable gas with the characteristic foul odor of expired eggs perceptible at concentrations as low as 0.00047 parts per million...

) and CH4 (methane
Methane
Methane is a chemical compound with the chemical formula . It is the simplest alkane, the principal component of natural gas, and probably the most abundant organic compound on earth. The relative abundance of methane makes it an attractive fuel...

). Other anaerobic
Anaerobic organism
An anaerobic organism or anaerobe is any organism that does not require oxygen for growth. It could possibly react negatively and may even die if oxygen is present...

 microbial processes are linked to changes in the oxidation state of iron
Iron
Iron is a chemical element with the symbol Fe and atomic number 26. It is a metal in the first transition series. It is the most common element forming the planet Earth as a whole, forming much of Earth's outer and inner core. It is the fourth most common element in the Earth's crust...

 and manganese
Manganese
Manganese is a chemical element, designated by the symbol Mn. It has the atomic number 25. It is found as a free element in nature , and in many minerals...

. As a result of anaerobic decomposition, the soil stores large amounts of organic carbon because decomposition is incomplete.

The redox potential describes which way chemical reactions will proceed in oxygen deficient soils and controls the nutrient cycling in flooded systems. Redox potential, or reduction potential, is used to express the likelihood of an environment to receive electrons and therefore become reduced. For example, if a system already has plenty of electrons (anoxic, organic-rich shale
Shale
Shale is a fine-grained, clastic sedimentary rock composed of mud that is a mix of flakes of clay minerals and tiny fragments of other minerals, especially quartz and calcite. The ratio of clay to other minerals is variable. Shale is characterized by breaks along thin laminae or parallel layering...

) it is reduced and will likely donate electrons to a part of the system that has a low concentration of electrons, or an oxidized environment, to equilibrate to the chemical gradient. The oxidized environment has high redox potential, whereas the reduced environment has a low redox potential.

The redox potential is controlled by the oxidation state of the chemical species, pH and the amount of oxygen
Oxygen
Oxygen is the element with atomic number 8 and represented by the symbol O. Its name derives from the Greek roots ὀξύς and -γενής , because at the time of naming, it was mistakenly thought that all acids required oxygen in their composition...

 (O2) there is in the system. The oxidizing environment accepts electrons because of the presence of O2, which acts as electron acceptors:

O2 + 4e- + 4H+ → H2O

This equation will tend to move to the right in acidic conditions which causes higher redox potentials to be found at lower pH levels. Bacteria, heterotrophic organisms, consume oxygen while decomposing organic material which depletes the soils of oxygen, thus increasing the redox potential. In low redox conditions the deposition of ferrous iron (Fe2+) will increase with decreasing decomposition rates, thus preserving organic remains and depositing humus. At high redox potential, the oxidized form of iron, ferric iron (Fe3+), will be deposited commonly as hematite
Hematite
Hematite, also spelled as haematite, is the mineral form of iron oxide , one of several iron oxides. Hematite crystallizes in the rhombohedral system, and it has the same crystal structure as ilmenite and corundum...

. By using analytical geochemical tools such as x-ray fluorescence
X-ray fluorescence
X-ray fluorescence is the emission of characteristic "secondary" X-rays from a material that has been excited by bombarding with high-energy X-rays or gamma rays...

 (XRF) or inductively coupled mass spectrometry
Mass spectrometry
Mass spectrometry is an analytical technique that measures the mass-to-charge ratio of charged particles.It is used for determining masses of particles, for determining the elemental composition of a sample or molecule, and for elucidating the chemical structures of molecules, such as peptides and...

 (ICP-MS) the two forms of Fe (Fe2+ and Fe3+) can be measured in ancient rocks therefore determining the redox potential for ancient soils.

Such a study was done on Permian
Permian
The PermianThe term "Permian" was introduced into geology in 1841 by Sir Sir R. I. Murchison, president of the Geological Society of London, who identified typical strata in extensive Russian explorations undertaken with Edouard de Verneuil; Murchison asserted in 1841 that he named his "Permian...

 through Triassic
Triassic
The Triassic is a geologic period and system that extends from about 250 to 200 Mya . As the first period of the Mesozoic Era, the Triassic follows the Permian and is followed by the Jurassic. Both the start and end of the Triassic are marked by major extinction events...

 rocks (300-200 million years old) in Japan and British Colombia. The geologists found hematite throughout the early and middle Permian but began to find the reduced form of iron in pyrite within the ancient soils near the end of the Permian and into the Triassic. This suggests that conditions became less oxygen rich, even anoxic, during the late Permian, which eventually led to the greatest extinction in earth
Earth
Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and the densest and fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest of the Solar System's four terrestrial planets...

’s history, the P-T extinction.

Decomposition in anoxic or reduced soils is also carried out by sulfur-reducing bacteria which, instead of O2 use SO42- as an electron acceptor and produce hydrogen sulfide (H2S) and carbon dioxide in the process:

2H+ + SO42- + 2(CH2O) → 2CO2 + H2S +2H2O

The H2S gas percolates upwards and reacts with Fe2+ and precipitates pyrite, acting as a trap for the toxic H2S gas. However, H2S is still a large fraction of emissions from wetland soils. In most freshwater wetlands there is little sulfate (SO42-) so methanogenesis
Methanogenesis
Methanogenesis or biomethanation is the formation of methane by microbes known as methanogens. Organisms capable of producing methane have been identified only from the domain Archaea, a group phylogenetically distinct from both eukaryotes and bacteria, although many live in close association with...

 becomes the dominant form of decomposition by methanogenic bacteria only when sulfate is depleted. Acetate
Acetate
An acetate is a derivative of acetic acid. This term includes salts and esters, as well as the anion found in solution. Most of the approximately 5 billion kilograms of acetic acid produced annually in industry are used in the production of acetates, which usually take the form of polymers. In...

, a compound that is a byproduct of fermenting cellulose
Cellulose
Cellulose is an organic compound with the formula , a polysaccharide consisting of a linear chain of several hundred to over ten thousand β linked D-glucose units....

 is split by methanogenic bacteria to produce methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2), which are released to the atmosphere. Methane is also released during the reduction of CO2 by the same bacteria.

Atmosphere



In the pedosphere it is safe to assume that gases are in equilibrium with the atmosphere.[6] Because plant roots and soil microbes release CO2 to the soil, the concentration of bicarbonate(HCO3) in soil waters is much greater than that in equilibrium with the atmosphere, the high concentration of CO2 and the occurrence of metals in soil solutions results in lower pH levels in the soil. Gases that escape from the pedosphere to the atmosphere include the gaseous byproducts of carbonate dissolution, decomposition, redox reactions and microbial photosynthesis
Photosynthesis
Photosynthesis is a chemical process that converts carbon dioxide into organic compounds, especially sugars, using the energy from sunlight. Photosynthesis occurs in plants, algae, and many species of bacteria, but not in archaea. Photosynthetic organisms are called photoautotrophs, since they can...

. The main inputs from the atmosphere are aeolian sedimentation
Sedimentation
Sedimentation is the tendency for particles in suspension to settle out of the fluid in which they are entrained, and come to rest against a barrier. This is due to their motion through the fluid in response to the forces acting on them: these forces can be due to gravity, centrifugal acceleration...

, rainfall and gas
Gas
Gas is one of the three classical states of matter . Near absolute zero, a substance exists as a solid. As heat is added to this substance it melts into a liquid at its melting point , boils into a gas at its boiling point, and if heated high enough would enter a plasma state in which the electrons...

 diffusion
Diffusion
Molecular diffusion, often called simply diffusion, is the thermal motion of all particles at temperatures above absolute zero. The rate of this movement is a function of temperature, viscosity of the fluid and the size of the particles...

. Eolian sedimentation includes anything that can be entrained by wind or that stays suspended, seemingly indefinitely, in air and includes a wide variety of aerosol
Aerosol
Technically, an aerosol is a suspension of fine solid particles or liquid droplets in a gas. Examples are clouds, and air pollution such as smog and smoke. In general conversation, aerosol usually refers to an aerosol spray can or the output of such a can...

 particles, biological particles like pollen and dust to pure quartz sand. Nitrogen is the most abundant constituent in rain (after water), as water vapor utilizes aerosol particles to nucleate rain droplets.

Soil in forests


Soil is well developed in the forest
Forest
A forest, also referred to as a wood or the woods, is an area with a high density of trees. As with cities, depending where you are in the world, what is considered a forest may vary significantly in size and have various classification according to how and what of the forest is composed...

 as suggested by the thick humus layers, rich diversity of large trees and animal
Animal
Animals are a major group of multicellular, eukaryotic organisms of the kingdom Animalia or Metazoa. Their body plan eventually becomes fixed as they develop, although some undergo a process of metamorphosis later on in their life. Most animals are motile, meaning they can move spontaneously and...

s that live there. In forests, precipitation exceeds evapotranspiration
Evapotranspiration
Evapotranspiration is a term used to describe the sum of evaporation and plant transpiration from the Earth's land surface to atmosphere. Evaporation accounts for the movement of water to the air from sources such as the soil, canopy interception, and waterbodies...

 which results in an excess of water that percolates downward through the soil layers. Slow rates of decomposition leads to large amounts of fulvic acid, greatly enhancing chemical weathering. The downward percolation
Percolation
In physics, chemistry and materials science, percolation concerns the movement and filtering of fluids through porous materials...

, in conjunction with chemical weathering leaches magnesium
Magnesium
Magnesium is a chemical element with the symbol Mg, atomic number 12, and common oxidation number +2. It is an alkaline earth metal and the eighth most abundant element in the Earth's crust and ninth in the known universe as a whole...

 (Mg), iron
Iron
Iron is a chemical element with the symbol Fe and atomic number 26. It is a metal in the first transition series. It is the most common element forming the planet Earth as a whole, forming much of Earth's outer and inner core. It is the fourth most common element in the Earth's crust...

 (Fe), and aluminum (Al) from the soil and transports them downward, a process known as podzolization
Podzolization
Podzolization is the comprehensive name for the process of mobilization and precipitation of dissolved organic matter, together with aluminum Al and iron Fe as they are leaching down from the A and E horizons to the B horizon . Through this process the overlying eluvial horizons are getting bleached...

. This process leads to marked contrasts in the appearance and chemistry of the soil layers.

Soil in the tropics


Tropical forests (rainforests) receive more insolation
Insolation
Insolation is a measure of solar radiation energy received on a given surface area in a given time. It is commonly expressed as average irradiance in watts per square meter or kilowatt-hours per square meter per day...

 and rainfall over longer growing seasons than any other environment on earth. With these elevated temperatures, insolation and rainfall, biomass is extremely productive leading to carbon production as much as 800gCm2-yr-. Higher temperatures and larger amounts of water contribute to higher rates of chemical weathering. Increased rates of decomposition cause smaller amounts of fulvic acid to percolate and leach metals from the zone of active weathering. Thus, in stark contrast to soil in forests, tropical forests have little to no podzolization and therefore do not have marked visual and chemical contrasts with the soil layers. Instead, the mobile metals Mg, Fe and Al are precipitated as oxide minerals giving the soil a rusty red color.

Soil in grasslands and deserts


Precipitation in grasslands is equal to or less than evapotranspiration and causes soil development to operate in relative drought. Leaching and migration of weathering products is therefore decreased. Large amounts of evaporation causes buildup of calcium (Ca) and other large cations flocculate clay minerals and fulvic acids in the upper soil profile. Impermeable clay limits downward percolation of water and fulvic acids, reducing chemical weathering and podzolization. The depth to the maximum concentration of clay increases in areas of increased precipitation and leaching. When leaching is decreased, the Ca precipitates as calcite (CaCO3) in the lower soil levels, a layer known as caliche
Caliche (Mineral)
Caliche is a sedimentary rock, a hardened deposit of calcium carbonate. This calcium carbonate cements together other materials, including gravel, sand, clay, and silt. It is found in aridisol and mollisol soil orders...

.

Deserts behave similarly to grasslands but operate in constant drought as precipitation is less than evapotranspiration. Chemical weathering proceeds more slowly than in grasslands and beneath the caliche layer may be a layer of gypsum
Gypsum
Gypsum is a very soft sulfate mineral composed of calcium sulfate dihydrate, with the chemical formula CaSO4·2H2O. It is found in alabaster, a decorative stone used in Ancient Egypt. It is the second softest mineral on the Mohs Hardness Scale...

 and halite
Halite
Halite , commonly known as rock salt, is the mineral form of sodium chloride . Halite forms isometric crystals. The mineral is typically colorless or white, but may also be light blue, dark blue, purple, pink, red, orange, yellow or gray depending on the amount and type of impurities...

. To study soils in deserts, pedologists have used the concept of chronosequences to relate timing and development of the soil layers. It has been shown that P is leached very quickly from the system and therefore decreases with increasing age. Furthermore, carbon buildup in the soils is decreased due to slower decomposition rates. As a result, the rates of carbon circulation in the biogeochemical cycle is decreased.

See also


  • Planetary habitability
    Planetary habitability
    Planetary habitability is the measure of a planet's or a natural satellite's potential to sustain life. Life may develop directly on a planet or satellite or be transferred to it from another body, a theoretical process known as panspermia...

  • Biodiversity
    Biodiversity
    Biodiversity is the degree of variation of life forms within a given ecosystem, biome, or an entire planet. Biodiversity is a measure of the health of ecosystems. Biodiversity is in part a function of climate. In terrestrial habitats, tropical regions are typically rich whereas polar regions...

  • Bioregion
  • Earth Science
    Earth science
    Earth science is an all-embracing term for the sciences related to the planet Earth. It is arguably a special case in planetary science, the Earth being the only known life-bearing planet. There are both reductionist and holistic approaches to Earth sciences...

  • Ecology
    Ecology
    Ecology is the scientific study of the relations that living organisms have with respect to each other and their natural environment. Variables of interest to ecologists include the composition, distribution, amount , number, and changing states of organisms within and among ecosystems...

  • Ecosystem
    Ecosystem
    An ecosystem is a biological environment consisting of all the organisms living in a particular area, as well as all the nonliving , physical components of the environment with which the organisms interact, such as air, soil, water and sunlight....

  • Natural environment
    Natural environment
    The natural environment encompasses all living and non-living things occurring naturally on Earth or some region thereof. It is an environment that encompasses the interaction of all living species....

  • Biogeochemistry
    Biogeochemistry
    Biogeochemistry is the scientific discipline that involves the study of the chemical, physical, geological, and biological processes and reactions that govern the composition of the natural environment...

  • Biogeochemical cycle
    Biogeochemical cycle
    In ecology and Earth science, a biogeochemical cycle or substance turnover or cycling of substances is a pathway by which a chemical element or molecule moves through both biotic and abiotic compartments of Earth. A cycle is a series of change which comes back to the starting point and which can...

  • Geochemistry
    Geochemistry
    The field of geochemistry involves study of the chemical composition of the Earth and other planets, chemical processes and reactions that govern the composition of rocks, water, and soils, and the cycles of matter and energy that transport the Earth's chemical components in time and space, and...

  • Soil Science
    Soil science
    Soil science is the study of soil as a natural resource on the surface of the earth including soil formation, classification and mapping; physical, chemical, biological, and fertility properties of soils; and these properties in relation to the use and management of soils.Sometimes terms which...

  • Geology
    Geology
    Geology is the science comprising the study of solid Earth, the rocks of which it is composed, and the processes by which it evolves. Geology gives insight into the history of the Earth, as it provides the primary evidence for plate tectonics, the evolutionary history of life, and past climates...

  • Chemistry
    Chemistry
    Chemistry is the science of matter, especially its chemical reactions, but also its composition, structure and properties. Chemistry is concerned with atoms and their interactions with other atoms, and particularly with the properties of chemical bonds....