The Uncalm Development of Proglacial Soils in the European Alps Since 1850

  • Arnaud J. A. M. TemmeEmail author
Part of the Geography of the Physical Environment book series (GEOPHY)


Glaciers in the Alps and other mountain regions are widely retreating. This contribution focusses on the soils that are forming in the proglacial areas. These soils are important because of the hydrological and ecological effect they will have in future glacierless valleys. A geographical approach is taken that attempts to explain differences in rates of soil formation between proglacial valleys. Through a comparison of published soil chronosequences of European proglacial areas, it is found that age is the most important factor determining rates of soil development—even where morphodynamics are strong. Nonetheless, the effect of geomorphic activity and the effect of vegetation succession have been clearly observed in several studies. The combination of all factors forces us to acknowledge a complex model of soil formation in alpine proglacial valley that among others highlights the heterogenous and dynamic nature of morphodynamics. This model invites us to fill in some blanks in our understanding and suggests that with a larger number of proglacial soil development studies, we may be able to provide pan-alpine information on soils in proglacial areas. This is of importance, for instance, when establishing pan-alpine carbon budgets.


Soil development Proglacial area Soil types Chronosequence Morphodynamics 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeographyKansas State UniversityManhattanUSA
  2. 2.Soil Geography and Landscape, Wageningen UniversityWageningenThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research, University of ColoradoBoulderUSA

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