Reference Work Entry


Part of the series Encyclopedia of Earth Science pp 1271-1277

Weathering, soils, and paleosols

  • Gregory J. RetallackAffiliated withDepartment of Geological Sciences, University of Oregon

Soils are fundamental to life on this planet. The mineral nutrients provided by weathering within soil and the degree of drainage of soil control what kind of life can thrive in a particular place. On the other hand, living creatures with their roots, jaws, and other means of acquiring nutrients do much to determine the nature of soil. Soils include billions of bacteria, millions of nematodes and a few plants in just about every square centimeter. Soil's diverse microbes and internal absorptive surfaces of clay neutralize poisons and purify water. By fueling photosynthesis, soil regulates the composition of the atmosphere. Through the engine of soil, life has far-reaching effects on land, water, and air. The intimate interrelationship between soil, life, and surface environments also has a long fossil record in the form of fossil soils, or paleosols. These remains of soils of the past are now known as old as 3,500 million years on Earth. Even more ancient soils and paleosols are now kn ...

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