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Reconsidering the compound effect of geomorphology, vegetation, and climate change on paleopedogenesis in sensitive environments (Northern Apennines, Italy)

Abstract : Complex sequences of paleosols are often formed by the interaction between pedogenesis and geomorphological evolution. Their study, particularly in mountain areas, is useful to reconstruct past environmental conditions as well as climate shifts, and to gather information on the morphodynamical processes affecting the landscape through time. Since the combined role that all different factors can play in the soil formation and evolution through time and space influences the formation and evolution of those complex paleosol sequences, a multidisciplinary study was conducted at the NW slope of Mt. Cusna (Northern Apennines, Italy). This work aims to reconstruct and to evaluate how the interactions between the geomorphological context, the Holocene climate variations, and the modification of the vegetation cover and composition influence the soil development of this area. A combination of routine soil analyses (i.e., grain-size distributions, total organic carbon, total nitrogen, pH, and Fe/Al extractions), soil micromorphology and the Rock-Eval® pyrolysis allowed to characterize and to correlate the different soil units constituting a toposequence of six soil profiles. The presence of different pedological units that can be correlated along the slope underlines the occurrence of separate events of pedogenesis, spatio-temporally linked to recognizable stability phases at slope scale. These phases of biostasy, characterized by vegetation cover and soil development, alternate to phases of rhexistasy, characterized mainly by slope instability (i.e., aggradation/degradation). In detail, in the Mt. Cusna toposequence three different soil units, linked to three different stability phases, have been identified: the earliest stability phase, characterized by the presence of well-developed Luvisols, the subsequent stability phase typified by less expressed Luvisols, and the ongoing stability phase with Leptosols. This latter pedogenetic phase, in some cases, is superimposed to the previous one, so affecting the exhumed paleosols. In this light, the Mt. Cusna toposequence characterization allowed to enlighten the complexity of soil polygenesis in higher detail than the previous studies, not only reconstructing the past environmental conditions but also inferring the succession of phases of slope stability and phases characterized by erosion and deposition processes.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, January 12, 2021 - 9:28:47 AM
Last modification on : Tuesday, February 2, 2021 - 3:29:38 AM
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A. Masseroli, S. Villa, G.S. Mariani, I.M. Bollati, M. Pelfini, et al.. Reconsidering the compound effect of geomorphology, vegetation, and climate change on paleopedogenesis in sensitive environments (Northern Apennines, Italy). CATENA, Elsevier, 2021, 197, pp.104951. ⟨10.1016/j.catena.2020.104951⟩. ⟨hal-03106753⟩

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