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Soil Development on Recent End Moraines of the Klutlan Glacier, Yukon Territory, Canada

  • G. L. Jacobson (a1) (a2) and H. J. B. Birks (a3)

Data on soils with six Neoglacial moraines of the Klutlan Glacier have been compared with those from moraines at the warm, moist coastal site of Glacier Bay, 160 km south. Percentage organic matter increases rapidly for the first 100 to 150 yr of soil development and then continues to rise gradually for the next 100 yr. Soil pH falls from 8.0 in recent till to approximately 6.0 in 200-yr-old soils. Nitrogen levels in the mineral soil increase from near zero in recent tills to 0.7% in soils 175–200 yr old; organic horizons of soils associated with spruce forests in later successional stages contain approximately 1% nitrogen. Concentrations of certain inorganic phosphate ions in the different-aged soils increase continually throughout the succession. Data for nine chemical variables were subjected to a principal components analysis; the major pattern in the data reflects the differences between soils of low organic content and high pH present in early successional stages, and nutrient-rich soils with high organic content and low pH present after succession has progressed toward the spruce forest. These trends in soil development with time are strikingly similar to those reported from Glacier Bay, except that the changes in soil properties appear to be delayed by 50–100 yr at the Klutlan terminus. Although numerous signs of nitrogen deficiency have been identified in plants growing on new soils at Glacier Bay, none was observed visually in living plants or in nutrients measured in samples of foliage from three plant taxa (Epilobium latifolium, Salix spp., and Populus balsamifera) taken from the Klutlan moraines. Concentrations of nitrogen and other nutrients (Ca, Mg, K, total P) in the foliage samples show no clear trends with increasing soil development. Low temperatures, a short growing season, and very low mean annual precipitation probably limit plant growth and account for the delayed soil development on the Klutlan moraines.

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Contribution No. 203, Limnological Research Center, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minn. 55455.

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Quaternary Research
  • ISSN: 0033-5894
  • EISSN: 1096-0287
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