Tuesday, 11 July 2006 - 11:25 AM

Soils of the Spitsbergen (Svalbard).

Marek Drewnik Sr. and Stefan Skiba. Jagiellonian University, Gronostajowa 7, Krakow, 30387, Poland

The soil cover of Spitsbergen as it is in the case of other polar regions shows strong links with the relief and lithological features of the bedrock as well as with texture, humidity conditions and the intensity of weathering and cryogenic processes. The participation of vegetation in the soil forming processes of the Spitsbergen area is usually shown/ marked by the humus accumulation horizon which is fractured/disturbed by the cryoturbations. Only in the peatbog soils the organic horizon (histic) is well formed although the cryoturbations are also visible there. The horizon of most mineral soils starts with frozen rock pavement and the rest does not show colourful diagnostic horizons. It is a characteristic feature of all the Cryosols in which the frost processes mix the soil mass and which results in the lack of the colourful diagnostic horizons. In humid soils clay horizons are well formed and their gray-green colour indicates strong reduction processes. During the Summer months permafrost occurs usually 30-50 deep in the clay formations (soils) and in the sandy-loam formations deeper than 1 m. Among Spitsbergen soils the following soils can be described: Leptosols formed on the carbonateless rocks (Geli-Lithic Leptosols) and rendzinas formed on small carbonate rock outcrops (Geli-Rendzic Leptosols). Such soils can be found in the non-glaciated areas of the bigger rock massifs but also on nunataks. Hyperskeleti-Gelic Leptosols cover vast areas of both the mountain slopes and the rock pebble material of the terminal and lateral moraines and the terraces of the coastal plains. On the slopes (often of the glacis character) cryogenic soils prevail with visible evidence of frost action and the presence of gley (Gleyi-Turbic Cryosols). Those soils have been formed usually on the petrographically differentiated material with features indicating the dynamics of the relief forming processes. Those are mainly redistributed solifluctional covers with considerable depth containing material coming from detachment. The coastal plains which are usually raised marine terraces can be characterised with different petrographical composition. The mosaic character of the alternately distributed sediments of the former shore ridges and hollows between them is visible in the structure of the soil cover. On the long elevations of the former storm water drains Skeleti-Gelic Regosols prevail and in the hollows filled with small earth fraction material frost deformed Gleyi-Turbic Cryosols occur. The presence of Histic Cryosols depends on the local water conditions. Bigger patches of these soils occur in the denudations near the glacial streams and lakes. Those soils also show frost deformations (Histic Cryosols, Turbi-Histic Cryosols, Glaci-Histic Cryosols) and they are accompanied by cryogenic organic-mineral formations e.g. Gleyi-Histic Cryosols. On the vast areas of the marine coastal plains In the glacial river valleys Skeleti-Gelic Fluvisols occur. The soil cover shows considerable differentiation yet all of the soil units belong to either Gelisols category or to the Cryosol unit in the World Reference Base for Soil Resources.

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