Taxonomy term


Soil may supply surging streams after earthquakes

Earthquakes don’t just rattle buildings and psyches — they shake up the hydrological cycle too. Scientists have long noticed spikes in streamflow following big quakes, but they have yet to pinpoint the causes of these surges. While most proposed explanations conjure different ways of uncorking groundwater reservoirs, a new study suggests that at least some of this extra water may actually get shaken out of the soil.
09 Jul 2015

New nationwide soil map available online

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) recently completed a seven-year soil-mapping project detailing the mineralogy and geochemistry of soils across the lower 48 U.S. states. Bill Cannon, an emeritus scientist at the USGS in Reston, Va., and co-author of the report, which was published in 2014, discussed the effort last October at the Geological Society of America’s annual meeting in Vancouver, B.C.

13 Feb 2015

Of char and carbon: The story of a buried soil

The so-called Brady soil — a dark horizon up to a meter thick that underlies much of Kansas and Nebraska — is widespread but often unseen. The layer is a paleosol, or fossil soil, that formed about 15,500 to 13,500 years ago when the region was a stable grassland built atop dunes of thick, wind-blown loess. That changed when the Laurentide Ice Sheet retreated and dunes swallowed the grasslands.

22 Sep 2014

Natural arsenic levels in Ohio soils exceed regulatory standards

A new study in which all 842 soil samples taken in Ohio had more arsenic than recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) raises the question of what to do when natural background levels in the environment exceed limits set to protect ecosystems and human health.

31 Aug 2014

Climate, terroir, and wine: What matters most in producing a great wine?

Weather and climate have played decisive roles throughout human existence — where and how cultures developed, where they migrated and even how some died out. The most successful early civilizations were those that developed strong agrarian systems based on what crops were most compatible with the climate. If conditions changed for one reason or another, people migrated to areas with a more suitable environment to grow a certain crop or raise specific animals.

09 Jan 2014

No pre-Columbian deforestation of the western Amazon

Relying primarily on clues in soil cores, a research team has unearthed evidence that pre-Columbian western Amazonian people did not significantly disturb or alter interfluvial forests, contrary to previous suggestions.

18 Jun 2012

Comment: Peak Soil: Does civilization have a future?

First there was Peak Oil, the idea that there’s only so much oil out there and we may have reached or even passed a turning point in global oil production. In his 2007 book “Peak Everything,” author Richard Heinberg said it’s not just fossil fuels: Everything from population to food production to freshwater availability has its own point of no return.

15 Apr 2010

Earthworms churn out calcite crystals

Any gardener can tell you that earthworms play a major role in soil ecology. But that information hasn’t always been common knowledge. Charles Darwin was one of the first to study earthworms, and in 1881, he discovered the curious fact that many species leave behind calcite crystals as they work their way through the soil. Now, new research might shed some light on the enduring mystery of how and why earthworms produce the crystals.

10 Feb 2009

Arctic soils retain more carbon

Don’t look now, but a slumbering beast rests in the north. It’s not news that the North American Arctic, where trees dare not grow, contains immense amounts of organic carbon in its soils. But according to a new study, past estimates of organic carbon concentrations in Arctic soils are too low — and that has some scientists worried about vast amounts of carbon being released as temperatures warm.

15 Oct 2008

Mapping safer drinking water

Beginning in the 1970s, international aid agencies dug hundreds of thousands of wells in Bangladesh to help people access clean drinking water. The effort curbed diarrheal diseases, but it led to a new problem: arsenic poisoning.

Arsenic occurs naturally in some rocks, including formations throughout the Himalayas. When these rocks weather, the groundwater can become contaminated with arsenic. At high doses, arsenic is lethal. But even small doses can cause cancer and other health problems over time.

28 Aug 2008