- © The Mineralogical Society Of America
Sustainable soils are a requirement for maintaining human civilizations (Carter and Dale 1974; Lal 1989). However, as the “most complicated biomaterial on the planet” (Young and Crawford 2004), soils represent one of the most difficult systems to understand and model with respect to chemical, physical, and biological coupling over time (Fig. 1⇓).
Despite the complexity of these interactions, certain patterns in soil properties and development are universally observed and have been used in soil science as a means for classification. Elemental, mineralogical, or isotopic concentrations in soils plotted versus depth beneath the land surface comprise such patterns. Soil depth profiles are often reported for solid soil materials, and, less frequently, for solutes in soil pore waters. These profiles cross a large range in spatial scales that traditionally have been studied by different disciplines. For example, shallow, biologically active horizons are commonly defined as the soil zone in agronomic studies whereas the mobile layer of the regolith is referred to as soil in geomorphological studies. …