Interaction between aggrading geomorphic surfaces and the formation of a late pleistocene paleosol in the palouse loess of eastern Washington state
Variable rates of loess deposition contributed to dramatic regional variation in a soil-stratigraphic unit, the Washtucna Soil, in the Palouse loess deposits in the Channeled Scabland of eastern Washington state. Throughout most of the Channeled Scabland, the morphology of the Washtucna Soil is that of a single buried soil, but it bifurcates into two well-developed and pedologically distinct buried soils in areas immediately downwind of the major source of loessial sediment. Regional loess stratigraphy confirms that the two well-developed soils formed during the same interval of time during which only one soil formed in areas that are distal to loess source areas. The variable and perhaps rapid rates of soil formation suggested by the stratigraphy resulted from an interaction between variable rates of loess deposition and the formation of superimposed calcic soils. Petrocalcic horizons with weak Stage IV morphology formed as the zone of carbonate accumulation moved up into former A and cambic horizons that had been profusely burrowed by cicadas. The development of cicada burrows in one phase of soil development that were subsequently engulfed by pedogenic carbonate under a rising land surface seems to have greatly accelerated the development of the petrocalcic horizons. Accelerated rates of formation of the petrocalcic horizons occurred when extrinsic (pulses of loess deposition) and intrinsic (engulfment of burrowed horizons) thresholds were exceeded. Stratigraphic evidence suggests that the soil formation that accompanied the rise in the land surface due to additional loess deposition may have occurred during the late Wisconsin glaciation when giant glacial outburst floods in the channeled Scabland triggered a new cycle of loess deposition.