In 2004, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC), and the Mexican Geological Survey (Servicio Geologico Mexicano, or SGM) initiated pilot studies in preparation for a soil geochemical survey of North America called the Geochemical Landscapes Project. The purpose of this project is to provide a better understanding of the variability in chemical composition of soils in North America. The data produced by this survey will be used to construct baseline geochemical maps for regions within the continent. Two initial pilot studies were conducted: (1) a continental-scale study involving a north-south and east-west transect across North America and (2) a regional-scale study. The pilot studies were intended to test and refine sample design, sampling protocols, and field logistics for the full continental soils geochemical survey. Smith and others (2005) reported the results from the continental-scale pilot study. The regional-scale California study was designed to represent more detailed, higher resolution geochemical investigations in a region of particular interest that was identified from the low-sample-density continental-scale survey.
A 20,000-km2 area of northern California (fig. 1), representing a wide variety of topography, climate, and ecoregions, was chosen for the regional-scale pilot study. This study area also contains diverse geology and soil types and supports a wide range of land uses including agriculture in the Sacramento Valley, forested areas in portions of the Sierra Nevada, and urban/suburban centers such as Sacramento, Davis, and Stockton. Also of interest are potential effects on soil geochemistry from historical hard rock and placer gold mining in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, historical mercury mining in the Coast Range, and mining of base-metal sulfide deposits in the Klamath Mountains to the north. This report presents the major- and trace-element concentrations from the regional-scale soil geochemical survey in northern California.