Skip to main content
Geosciences LibreTexts

3.1: Soil Profile Descriptions Assignment

  • Page ID
    15273
  • \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \) \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)\(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)

    100 Points

    Purpose:

    The purpose of the assignment is for you to apply concepts of soil development learned in class to compare soil variability across the landscape.

    Learning Outcomes:

    Upon completion of this exercise you should be able to:

    • complete a site description
    • complete a soil profile description
    • acquire and interpret online soil data
    • link soil profile characteristics to soil forming factors

    Background:

    From the NRCS Soil Survey Manual, Chapter Five Soil profile descriptions are basic data in all soil surveys. They provide a major part of the information required for correlation and classification of the soils of an area. They are essential for interpreting soils and for coordinating interpretations across State and regional boundaries. The soil descriptions and the soil map are the parts of a published survey having the longest useful life.

    Field descriptions of soil profiles range from partial descriptions of material removed by a spade or by an auger to complete descriptions of pedons seen in three dimensions from intersecting pits as horizontal layers are removed sequentially from the surface downward. Most field descriptions of soil profiles are the former, so care in making them is essential. Field descriptions should include: 

    • Observed external attributes of the area, such as landform and characteristics of slope;
    • Inferred attributes of the area, such as parent material and soil-water states;
    • Observed internal properties of the profile, such as horizon thickness, color, texture, structure, and consistence;
    • Inferred attributes of the profile, such as horizon designations and parent material;
    • Inferred soil drainage class;
    • Classification of the profile in the lowest feasible category;
    • Location of the site relative to geographic markers and in terms of landscape position;
    • Plant cover or use of the site;
    • Date, time of day, and weather conditions;
    • Name of the describer

    Exercise:

    You will complete detailed site and profile descriptions for four locations. The four sites must either encompass a lithosequence, toposequence, climosequence, biosequence, or chronosequence. The four sites must also encompass at least three different mapped soil series (i.e., map units) in the Web Soil Survey. All equipment necessary to complete site and soil profile descriptions (i.e., trowel, bucket auger, GPS, Munsell color book, Abney level, etc.) will be available on a first come first served basis.

    For each site you must:

    1. Collect latitude-longitude with a GPS
    2. Collect a 3 to 4-foot-long soil profile using a bucket auger, shovel, or any other means
    3. Complete a Site Description form (Appendix 1)
    4. Complete a Profile Description form (Appendix 2)
    5. Complete an Official Series Description form (Appendix 3)
    6. Complete a Soil Taxonomy form (Appendix 4)
    7. Take a “selfie” that provides a view of the landscape of your site (you or the field equipment must be visible in the picture) (Figures 1 – 4)
    8. Take a picture of your profile in the field in the PVC soil profile tray with horizons marked (Figures 5 – 8)
    9. Generate a soil map using the Web Soil Survey (Figure 9). If all your sites are in close proximity, you can create one soil map, but if they are spread out you need to create multiple soil maps (and label them Figure 9a, Figure 9b, etc.)
    10. Generate a topographic map using the Web Soil Survey, Google Earth, or any other mapping software (Figure 10). If all your sites are in close proximity, you can create one topographic map, but if they are spread out you need to create multiple topographic maps (and label them Figure 10a, Figure 10b, etc.).

     You must write a 4,000 – 5,000 word report describing:

    A. the type of soil sequence you examined (i.e., litho, topo, chrono, bio, or climo),

    B. the soil forming factors for each site,

    C. the soil profile for each site, with a comparison of soil profiles among all four sites,

    D. how your soil profile descriptions compared to and contrasted with the Official Series Description for each site, with an assessment of why they were different or similar, and E. how changes in the five soil forming factors resulted in differences among your four soil profiles, with a focus on how variability of the soil forming factor being examined (the one selected in A above) was the primary driver of those differences.

    The first page of the report should be a title page that includes your name, GEOG 304, semester and year, and “Soil Profile Descriptions of a _________ sequence in County, State” at the top of the page with an overview map showing the location of all soil profile description locations. This should be followed on the next page by the report text. The report should have a References Cited page (examples of how to format references are below).

    All figures should be placed after the report text. All figures should be formatted to be approximately 4” tall x 5” wide and two figures should be on each page. Each figure should include a caption describing it (e.g., Figure 1. Landscape view of site 1).

    All appendices should follow the figures and the pages should be oriented landscape. To do this in Word, at the end of the last figure caption from the “Layout” menu select “Breaks” and then “Section Breaks” “Next Page”. A new page should be added to the end. Now from the “Layout” menu change the orientation of the page to landscape. Copy your tables from Excel and Paste them into Word using “Paste Special...” “Formatted Text (RTF)”. Each table should be on a separate page and include a caption describing it (e.g., Appendix 1.1. Site description for site 1).

    Format:

    Times New Roman, size 12 font, double-spaced narrative and single-spaced tables, 1” margins with your last name and page numbers in the footer on all pages except the title page.

    Submit:

    Submit an electronic copy of a single Word (preferred) or PDF file through the D2L Soil Profile Descriptions dropbox before 1:20 pm on the last Tuesday of the semester

    The project will require a significant time commitment and must be completed regardless of the weather, soil conditions, or snowfall – DO NOT PROCRASTINATE!

    EXAMPLE

    Mark Bowen

    GEOG 304

    Fall 2015

    Soil Profile Descriptions of a Toposequence in the Kettle Moraine State Forest, Fond Du Lac County

    clipboard_eeef2d873a98557fa2b099cb97c61ef4a.png

    Introduction

    • Specifically state the type of soil sequence you examined (i.e., litho, topo, chrono, bio, or climo-sequence)
    • Describe the geographic location of where your sites are located (e.g., In the Kettle Moraine State Forest near Dundee, WI)
    • Provide a rationale for why you selected your sites specifically describing how those sites allowed you to investigate the type of sequence examined

    Soil Forming Factors

    Climate

    • Temperature: mean annual, maximum monthly, minimum monthly; seasonal distribution (must include reference)
    • Precipitation: average annual precipitation and average annual snowfall; seasonal distribution (must include reference)

    If sites are all in close proximity, you can describe the temperature and precipitation for all four sites at once. If sites are in more than one county, then you need to describe them separately.

    • Effective precipitation: for each site you must describe effective precipitation is higher or lower due to it generating run-off or receiving run-on based on landscape position (based on field description)

    Organisms

    • Ecoregion: Levels I through IV (must include reference) - If sites are all in close proximity, you can describe ecoregions for all four sites at once. If sites are in more than one ecoregion, then you need to describe each ecoregion separately.
    • Dominant vegetation surrounding the site (based on field description) – describe each site separately
    • Actual vegetation at your site (based on field description) – describe each site separately
    • Anthropogenic features (based on field description) – describe each site separately

    Relief

    • Landform and landscape (based on field description) - If sites are all in close proximity, you can describe landforms and landscape for all four sites at once. If sites are in more than one landscape, then you need to describe each landform and landscape separately.
    • Slope aspect, gradient, complexity, shape, and position (based on field description) – describe each site separately
    • Microrelief (based on field description) – describe each site separately

    Parent Material

    • Regional geology (must include reference) - If sites are all in close proximity, you can describe regional geology for all four sites at once. If sites are spread out, then you need to describe geology for each site separately.
    • As described in Web Soil Survey or Official Series Description – describe each site separately
    • As you determine in the field – describe each site separately

    Time

    • estimate the time based on when glaciers retreated (must include reference) - If sites are all in close proximity, you can describe time for all four sites at once. If sites are spread out, then you need to describe time for each site separately.
    • note if any natural or human cause disturbances have reset soil formation (e.g., floods, construction) – describe each site sepately

    Soil Profile Descriptions 

    • Site 1 – interpret Appendix 2.1 – don’t just report the data, but describe what the data mean

    • Site 2

    • Site 3
    • Site 4
    • Compare and contrast profiles among the four sites; explain how and why profiles differed

    Comparisons to Official Series Descriptions

    • Site 1 - describe any meaningful differences or similarities between your profile description and the Official Series Description (i.e., compare and contrast Appendix 2.1 and Appendix 3.1) with an assessment of why they were different or similar

    • Site 2

    • Site 3
    • Site 4

    Summary

    • a description of how changes in ClORPT resulted in differences in soil profiles among your four sites
      • ideally four of the five factors will be the same or very similar for all sites and only one varied considerably among sites
      • focus on how variability of the soil forming factor being examined in your soil sequence was the primary driver of those differences in the soil profiles

    References

    Appendices

    Appendix 1 – Site Description tables

    Appendix 1.1 – Site 1

    Appendix 1.2 – Site 2

    Appendix 1.3 – Site 3

    Appendix 1.4 – Site 4

    Appendix 2 – Profile Description tables

    Appendix 2.1 – Site 1

    Appendix 2.2 – Site 2

    Appendix 2.3 – Site 3 Appendix 2.4 – Site 4

    Appendix 3 – Official Series Description tables

    Appendix 3.1 – Site 1

    Appendix 3.2 – Site 2

    Appendix 3.3 – Site 3

    Appendix 3.4 – Site 4

    Appendix 4 – Soil Taxonomy Descriptions

    Appendix 4.1 – Site 1

    Appendix 4.2 – Site 2

    Appendix 4.3 – Site 3

    Appendix 4.4 – Site 4

    Table 1. Site 1 Site Description

    Site ID: Site 1  Describer(s): Mark Bowen 
    Date: 9/14/2017  Current Weather: clear and warm 
    Series/Map Unit Name: Casco-Rodman loams, 12 to 30 percent slopes  Map Unit Symbol: CpE 
    Taxonomy: Fine-loamy over sandy or sandy-skeletal, mixed, superactive, mesic Inceptic Hapludalfs 
    County & State: Fond Du Lac, WI  Lat-Long: 43.632689, - 88.190793  Elevation: 1,099 ft 
    Avg. Annual Temp: 45° F  Max Temp & Month: 80°F; July  Min Temp & Month: 25°F; January 
    Avg. Annual Precip: 30" rain  Avg. Annual Snow: 36"  Effective Precip: less due to runoff 
    Slope Aspect: ~100° (ESE)  Slope Gradient: 24% 
    Slope Complexity: simples  Slope Shape: linear/linear 
    Hillslope Profile Position: back slope  Geomorph Comp: nose slope 
    Land Cover: forested with grasses  Parent Material: loamy glaciofluvial deposits over sandy and gravelly outwash 
    Landscape/Landform: outwash plain/moraine  Soil Moisture Status: moist but nor water; water table was not encountered
    Microfeatures: N/A  Anthro Features: road cut for logging immediately adjacent to site 

    Misc. Notes/Sketch:

    A path for a logging road has been bulldozed into the slope immediately adjacent to the site I augured.

    A rocky ~2 ft tall profile has been exposed along the road.

    Horizons are visible but profile is shallow and rocky.

     

    Table 2. Site 1 Profile Description

      Horizon  Depth (cm)  Moist Color  Structure (grade/size/type)  Roots and Pores (Quant./size/location)  Rock and Other Fragments (kind/size/%vol./roundness) 
    1 0 - 18  10YR 4/3  moderate, medium granular  common fine  mixed rocks/coarse gravel/rounded 
    2 B1  18 - 28  10YR 6/4  weak, medium subangular blocky  common fine  mixed rocks/coarse gravel/rounded 
    3 B2 28 - 40 7.5YR 5/4  weak, medium subangular blocky  common fine  mixed rocks/cobbles/rounded
    4 C 40 - 84 10YR 6/3 weak, medium subangular blocky  common fine  mixed rocks/cobbles/rounded

     

      Horizon Boundary Efferv. Class Texture Misc. Notes (e.g., consistence, redox features, concentrations, etc.)
    1 A smooth abrupt NE silty loam friable
    2 B1 smooth clear NE sandy clay loam friable
    3 B2 wavy clear NE sandy clay loam firm
    4 C N/A NE sandy clay loam friable; very rocky layer cannot go any deeper because of rocks

     

    Table 3. Site 1 Official Series Description for Casco soil series

    Series: Casco  States soil series located in: Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio 
    Taxonomic class: fine-loamy over sandy or sandy-skeletal, mixed, superactive, mesic, Inceptic Hapludalfs 
    Typical pedon: Casco loam on a convex southwest-facing 5 percent slope under alfalfa-brome at an elevation of 324 meters (1,054 feet) 
    Type Location: Sheboygan County, Wisconsin about 9 miles southwest of Plymouth 
    Geographic setting - landform: outwash plains, outwash terraces, eskers, kames, and moraines 
    Geographic setting - parent material: thin layer of loamy alluvium underlain by calcareous stratified sandy outwash 
    Mean annual precipitation (mm and in): 71-102 cm; 28-40 in  Mean annual temperature (C and F): 7.8-13.9 C; 46-57 F 
    Draina ge: somewhat excessively drained  Runoff potential: slow to rapid 
    Saturated hydraulic conductivity and permeability: moderately high to high and moderate to very rapid 
    Use and Vegetation: most of the less sloping areas are used for cropland; corn, small grains, and hay are the principle crops; some areas are used for woodland and some for pasture. Native vegetation is mixed hardwood forest. 

     

    Horizon  Depth Range (cm)  Moist Color  Texture  Structure (grade, size, type)  Consistence (friable, firm, loose, etc.)  Boundary 
    Ap  0-20  10YR 4/2  loam  weak, medium, subangular blocky  friable  abrupt smooth 
    Bt1  20-33  7.5YR 4/4  clay loam  moderate, medium, subangular blocky  firm  clear smooth 
    Bt2  33-43  7.5YR 4/4  sandy clay loam  moderate, medium, subangular blocky  firm  abrupt wavy 
    2C  43-152  10YR 5/3  stratified gravelly coarse sand, very gravelly coarse sand, and extremely gravelly coarse sand  single grain  loose  

    clipboard_e571b7b5d26816f7cb26b9ec2f95d6426.png

    Figure 1. Site 1 “selfie”

    clipboard_eb965ae6764a2aeb8e06e08c9244f2a2e.png

    Figure 2. Site 1 Soil Profile

    clipboard_e52e613e4103595c6c43fbcabe109e783.png

    Figure 3. Soil map of site locations (Web Soil Survey, 2015).

    clipboard_e4c136b3a76a7234a1667fe6a58f14749.png

    Figure 4. Topographic map of site locations (Google Earth, 2015)


    3.1: Soil Profile Descriptions Assignment is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Mark W. Bowen via source content that was edited to conform to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.

    • Was this article helpful?