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SOIL 3600 Field Trip Report

Individual Portion

Kelsey Margraf

Student #: 7740150

Group 9

December 13, 2016


BACKGROUND

The Field Site was located near Miami, Manitoba, Canada within the Madill sub-watershed

of the South Tobacco Creek Watershed (please see Figure 1 in the "Figures" section of this report)1.

"The South Tobacco Creek drains into the Morris River, and eventually into the Red River, which

then flows north into Lake Winnipeg."1 Land use in the STCW is dominated by agriculture with

annual cropping1. Average annual precipitation for the STCW is roughly 550 millimeters, about

25% of which is typically snow1. It was deduced by a majority of the class that the particular

agricultural field on which all soil sampling, pit analysis, and elevation measurements were

performed was a soybean field, and that in general, the landscape of the Field Site could be

described as hummocky or undulating.

Approximately 20, 000 years ago, at the height of the last ice age, much of Manitoba was

covered by a glacier2. As this glacier advanced Southward, it scraped and flattened the landscape in

its path, carrying stone, soils and other debris along with it, and depositing them in long ridges

called "moraines" at the glacier's edges2. Overall retreat of the glacier took place in a series of

smaller advances and retreats as the glacier melted starting at its Southernmost portion due to

increases in global temperature2. As the melt of this glacier proceeded throughout centuries, the

Glacial Lake Agassiz was formed.

Approximately 11,000 years ago, the Eastern and Western shores of Lake Agassiz were

composed of a sandy, gravelly beach, while the North and Northeastern shores were composed of

ice which prevented its drainage2. Today, the Manitoba Escarpment marks what was for long

periods the Western bank of Lake Agassiz and which was formed, at least in part, by the scouring

action of the glacier that had covered most of Manitoba2. As melt of the glacier continued,

eventually Lake Agassiz was able to drain East into the Lake Superior basin and North into

Hudson's Bay2.
The STCW is located along the edge of the Manitoba Escarpment, such that within the

watershed, elevation drops by 60 meters in less than 3 kilometers1. The Madill Watershed is located

at the headwaters of the South Tobacco Creek Watershed (STCW), above the Manitoba

Escarpment1. Therefore, the majority of parent materials for soils at the Field Site were likely those

materials deposited by glacial scouring action, rather than those which laid beneath Glacial Lake

Agassiz.

Much of Manitoba's, and the Manitoba Escarpment's, predominantly calcareous regolith can

be attributed to the existence of the Western Interior Seaway and deposits that occurred during its

existence in the late Cretaceous period3. These deposits, as a result of the high calcium-carbonate

content of benthic organisms, led to the formation of the limestone and marine shale which underlay

much of Manitoba and are characteristic of the Manitoba Escarpment region3.

SOIL FORMATION AND LANDSCAPE PROCESSES


According to The Government of Canada's Manitoba Soil Survey4, the soil series that

dominate the area of the Field Site include The Dezwood Series and the Pembina Series. This would

make sense, as both of these soil series tend to develop on moderate to strongly calcareous mixed

till deposits in hummocky landscapes4. The Pembina Series is composed of Dark Grey Luvisol,

while The Dezwood Series is composed of Orthic Dark Grey (a type of Chernozem)4. However, it

should also be noted that on some upper slope positions of the Field Site, calcareous C horizon

material was exposed on the land surface, therefore making these soils more Brunosolic than

Luvisolic or Chernozemic. How these soil patterns developed within the landscape as a result of

both soil-forming factors as well as under the influence of landscape processes will now be

described.

Immediately after the glacier which formed Lake Agassiz receded, what likely existed on

the Field Site is a large deposit of calcareous till which within a relatively short amount of time
became a weakly developed and rapidly to imperfectly drained Regisolic soil. The colour of the

soil would have been dominantly the buff to grey colour associated with the limestone and shale

which comprised the Regisol's Ck horizon. As time continued to pass, leeching of the soluble

materials within the Ck horizon (likely mostly carbonates as well as some salts) would occur, as

would the accumulation of organic matter after the arrival of pioneering vegetation. A weak A

horizon, and perhaps even a weak B horizon would begin to develop, allowing what at this point

covered the Field Site to be classified as a Brunisol. As time continued to pass, more weathering

occurred, allowing for more distinct soil horizons to form. Due to the situation of the STCW within

the Aspen Parkland ecoregion of Canada, where boreal forest transitions into grassland5, in a very

general and broad characterization of the landscape (which obviously does not account for all the

variability in soil composition which overtime has no doubt characterized the STCW region) the

following divergence in soil development would have occurred: the lower, more moist positions in

the STCW landscape would have given rise to treed areas and soils of a Luvisolic nature, while

higher, drier landscape positions would have yielded prairie grasses and Chernozemic soils.

In the case of the Luvisols, the presence of moisture and therefore increased occurrence of

leeching would have given rise to light coloured, eluvial Ae or Ahe horizons, and deposition of

translocated soil constituents such as clay at depth in an illuvial B horizon. Over time, this illuvial B

horizon likely would have taken on a blocky structure due to the shrink-swell characteristics of the

clay. As well, perhaps due to the repeated formation of ice lenses, the eluvial A horizon(s) might

have acquired a platy structure. A lack of vegetation with an extensive root system in the Luvisols

in comparison to the grassland vegetation present with the Chernozems would have meant that in

general, the Luvisols of the STCW had a thinner A horizon with less organic matter accumulation.

In the case of the Chernozemic soils in the STCW, the presence of thick prairie grass with a

deep and extensive root system would have created thick A or Ah horizon dark with the
accumulation of organic matter. This high concentration of organic matter would have been

conducive to the formation of granular soil structure, as well as the production of organic acids by

microbes which protect against mineral weathering in the surficial soil horizons. For this reason, the

B horizon likely would not have been illuvial and would have represented a Bm horizon that

underwent chemical weathering due to leeching, with varying concentrations of carbonates present

dependent on the extent of leeching.

While the above explanation describes and gives reason as to how and why Chernozemic

and Luvisolic Soils dominate the STCW region and particularly the location of the Field Site, the

story of the Field Site as it exists today does not end there. Likely within the last 100-150 years, the

land of the STCW was converted from its natural Aspen Parkland condition to be used

predominantly for agriculture (as mentioned above). Converting land for agricultural use is a key

identified form of land degradation, known to make soil much more susceptible to erosion,

particularly water, wind and tillage erosion. As previously noted, the surface of the undulating hills

that characterized the Field Site were Brunosolic in nature -- calcareous, light coloured Ck material

was clearly visible in aggregates on the land surface. Such truncated profiles on upper slopes of

agricultural fields are characteristic of tillage erosion which transports fertile topsoil down slope and

causes it to accumulate in low-lying landscape positions. The occurrence of this tillage erosion

phenomena on the Field Site is further evidenced by the fact that at the lower slope soil pit

locations, thicker A horizons were found without any evidence of carbonate material present, while

at the soil pit in the uppermost slope position, an Apk horizon was discovered, signifying mixing of

subsoil carbonate material into the topsoil via tillage.

While it is safe to say that tillage erosion was the dominant erosion process at the Field Site

shaping its appearance, it certainly wasn't the only erosion process occurring. Multiple times

throughout the field trip, wind lifted soils off of the field and into the faces of students, providing
evidence for the possibility of wind erosion transporting sediments off of the field site, and

potentially, depending on the prevailing winds, into the vegetation surrounding the streams near the

site, which provide some wind cover. During a rain event, it is not difficult to imagine rills forming

on the bare land surface of the Field Site, and together with splash and inter-rill erosion, carrying

soil off the field and towards those same streams. Here we see opportunity for interaction between

the different kinds of erosion operating on the Field Site. Soil loss as a result of water erosion is

greatest at slope bottoms due to the increased capacity for run-off to accumulate. Loose soil

deposited by tillage exists at its greatest concentrations at slope bottoms, also. It is possible that

eroded material deposited by tillage at the bottom of slopes at the Field Site is transported further

down slope, off of the Field Site and toward nearby streams by water erosion during/after rain

events. To compound this phenomenon, that soil which was blown into the nearby vegetation by

wind erosion could easily be picked up by the same water on its way toward a nearby stream.

It is with such interacting processes described above, both past and current, that the

formation of the Field Site soil as it exists today was brought about. The above scenario is almost

certainly somewhat common on much of the agricultural fields contained with the STCW, with

some variability depending on tillage and land cover practices. It should be noted that while it may

seem intuitive from the above description that much of the soil and sediment carried out of the

STCW would be derived from agricultural fields, recent studies have shown that much of the

sediments deposited downstream from the Field Site and leaving the STCW have been identified as

actually derived from upstream banks and shale bedrock,6 the reasons for which are too complex to

discuss in this brief description of the formation of the soils and landscape that were observed

during the October 15, 2016 field trip.


Figures

Figure 1 - South Tobacco Creek Watershed and Key Sub-Watersheds


Retrieved from: http://www.agr.gc.ca/eng/?id=1303839041384
(Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada)
References
1
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. South Tobacco Creek/Steppler Watershed. Government of

Canada. Retrieved from: http://www.agr.gc.ca/eng/?id=1297269073820


2
Buckner, A. Manitoba History: Glacial Lake Agassiz. Manitoba History, Heritage and Recreation.

Retrieved from: http://www.mhs.mb.ca/docs/mb_history/19/lakeagassiz.shtml


3
The Government of Canada. Geology. Retrieved from: http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/eppp-

archive/100/205/301/ic/cdc/ancientseas2/pdfs/Geology.pdf
4
Michalyna, W., Podolsky, G., St. Jacques, E. Canada -- Manitoba Soil Survey: The Rural

Municipalities of Grey, Dufferin, Roland, Thompson and Part of Stanley. The Government

of Canada. Print.
5
Nature Conservancy of Canada. Aspen Parkland Forest. Retrieved from:

http://www.natureconservancy.ca/en/what-we-do/forest-conservation/aspen-parkland-

forest.html
6
Koiter, A.J., Lobb, D.A., Owens, P.N., Petticrew, E.L., Tiessen, K.H.D., Li, S. Investigating the

role of connectivity and scale in assessing the sources of sediment in an agricultural

watershed in the Canadian prairies using sediment source fingerprinting. Journal of Soils

and Sediments.2013; 13(10): p. 1676-1691. Retrieved from:

http://link.springer.com.uml.idm.oclc.org/article/10.1007/s11368-013-0762-7