Study of a sequence of terraces in the western Snake River Plain of Idaho reveals a record of at least seven terraces, the ages of which span the Pleistocene. In the Boise Valley, the youngest terraces are less than -14,500 yr and the oldest terraces are -1.7 Ma. Within this sequence, several relationships exist between soil morphology and terrace chronology. On terraces older than -14,500 yr, argillic horizon development generally increases with terrace age with maximum development occurring in soils of the oldest terraces. CaCO3- and SiO2-cemented duripans are found in soils on terraces that are late middle Pleistocene and older. By virtue of their physical and chemical properties, duripans are very resistant to erosion, and therefore provide stable records of CaCO3 and SiO2 accumulation throughout multiple cycles of loess deposition onto the terrace treads, pedogenesis, and partial erosion. Mean duripan thickness increases with age to a maximum of 0.66 m on the oldest terraces. Our results suggest that a geomorphic surface age of approximately 130,000 yr is required to form the initial plugged horizon that is characteristic of a duripan. CaCO3 and SiO2 accumulation is most rapid in duripans occupying geomorphic surfaces with ages ranging from 130,000 to 300,000 yr. After this, apparent accumulation rates decrease and little additional accumulation of these cementing agents occurs with time.
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Soil development on a Pleistocene terrace sequence, Boise Valley, Idaho