Soils formed in loess are evidence of both relict and buried landscapes developed on Pliocene-to-latest Pleistocene basalt flows of the Cima volcanic field in the eastern Mojave Desert, California. The characteristics of these soils change systematically and as functions of the age and surface morphology of the lava flow. Four distinct phases of soil development are recognized: phase 1 - weakly developed soils on flows less than 0.18 M.y. old; phase 2 - strongly developed soils with thick argillic horizons on 0.18 - 0.7 M.y. old flows; phase 3 - strongly developed soils with truncated argillic horizons massively impregnated by carbonate on 0.7 to 1.1 M.y. old flows; and phase 4 - degraded soils with petrocalcic rubble on Pliocene flows. A critical aspect of the development of stage 1 soils is the evolution of a vesicular A horizon which profoundly affects the infiltration characteristics of the loess parent materials. Laboratory studies show that secondary gypsum and possibly other salt accumulation probably occurred during the period of phase 1 soil development. Slight reddening of the interiors of peds from vesicular-A horizons of phase 1 soils and presence of weakly developed B horizons indicates a slight degree of in situ chemical alteration. However, clay and Fe oxide contents of these soils show that these constituents, as well as carbonates and soluble salts, are incorporated as eolian dust. In contrast to phase 1 soils, chemical and mineralogical analysis of argillic horizons of phase 2 soils indicate proportionally greater degrees of in-situ chemical alteration. These data, the abundant clay films, and the strong reddening in the thick argillic horizons suggest that phase 2 and phase 3 soils formed during long periods of time and periodically were subjected to leaching regimes more intense than those that now exist. Flow-age data and soil-stratigraphic evidence also indicate that several major loess-deposition events occurred during the past ??? 1.0 M.y. Loess events are attributed to past changes in climate, such as the Pleistocene-to-Holocene climatic change, that periodically caused regional desiccation of pluvial lakes, reduction of vegetational density, and exposure of loose, unconsolidated fine materials. During times of warmer interglacial climates, precipitation infiltrates to shallower depths than during glacial periods. Extensive, saline playas which developed in the Mojave Desert during the Holocene are a likely source of much of the carbonates and soluble salts that are accumulating at shallow depths both in phase 1 soils and in the formerly noncalcareous, nongypsiferous argillic horizons of phase 2 and 3 soils. ?? 1986.
Additional publication details
Influences of quaternary climatic changes on processes of soil development on desert loess deposits of the Cima volcanic field, California