Washington, Oct 21 : A team of scientists have conducted sophisticated mapping of the soil landscape on an extinct American volcano.
The volcano that featured in the research was the Capulin volcano, which formed approximately 62,000 years ago, and is the youngest volcano in the Raton-Clayton Volcanic Field in New Mexico, US.
The cone rises 396 m from the plain, reaching an altitude of 2,495 m above sea level. The base of the volcano is 6.4 km in circumference, and the crater is 126 m deep and 442 m across.
Four different flows of lava can be observed across the monument, indicative of different eruptive events.
Conditions across the park are highly dynamic with respect to vegetation distribution, slope, and depth to bedrock, but the available soils data was highly generalized and lacked sufficient specificity to be of much use in park management of natural resources.
In 2006, Dr. David C. Weindorf, Assistant Professor of Soil Classification and Land Use at the LSU AgCenter in Baton Rouge, LA, visited the volcano with a group of undergraduate soil science students.
As a result of the visit, the National Parks Service commissioned a more detailed study of soils in the park.
The unprecedented access for sampling allowed for the collection of more than 140 soil samples, and the description of five soil profiles (vertical cross sections of soil extending into the subsoil).
At each site, global positioning system (GPS) coordinates were recorded so the exact location of the sample could be mapped.
Slope and site characteristics such as vegetative cover were also noted at each point.
In the lab, soil color, texture, organic matter, pH, and other properties were carefully examined. When all datasets were complete, they were loaded into a computer program that creates interpolated maps between data collection points.
In doing so, map layers were created of each data parameter.
Finally, when all maps are simultaneously considered, the research team drew the boundaries of each unique soil.
Accurate soils information is vital not only to agriculture, but also civil engineering, environmental science, and other disciplines.