Texture and geochemistry of surface horizons of Arctic soils from a non-glaciated catchment, SW Spitsbergen

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Abstract

Physical and chemical properties of Arctic soils and especially the properties of surface horizons of the soils are very important because they are responsible for the rate and character of plant colonization, development of vegetation cover, and influence the rate and depth of thawing of soils and development of active layer of permafrost during summer. The main aim of the present study is to determine and explain the spatial diversity of selected physical and chemical properties of surface horizons of Arctic soils from the non-glaciated Fuglebekken catchment located in the Hornsund area (SW Spitsbergen) by means of geostatistical approach. Results indicate that soil surface horizons in the Fuglebekken catchment are characterized by highly variable physical and chemical properties due to a heterogeneous parent material (marine sediments, moraine, rock debris), tundra vegetation types, and non-uniform influence of seabirds. Soils experiencing the strongest influence of seabird guano have a lower pH than other soils. Soils developed on the lateral moraine of the Hansbreen glacier have the highest pH due to the presence of carbonates in the parent material and a lack or presence of a poorly developed and discontinuous A horizon. The soil surface horizons along the coast of the Hornsund exhibit the highest content of the sand fraction and SiO2. The surface of soils occurring at the foot of the slope of Ariekammen Ridge is characterized by the highest content of silt and clay fractions as well as Al2O3, Fe2O3, and K2O. Soils in the central part of the Fuglebekken catchment are depleted in CaO, MgO, and Na2O in comparison with soils in the other sampling sites, which indicates the highest rate of leaching in this part of the catchment.

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