GEMAS: adaptation of weathering indices for European agricultural soil derived from carbonate parent materials

Valera P.
Member of the Collaboration Group


Carbonate rocks are very soluble and export elements in dissolved form, and precipitation of secondary phases can occur on a large scale. They leave a strong chemical signature in soil that can be quantified and classified by geochemical indices, and which is useful for evaluating chemical weathering trends (e.g. the Chemical Index of Alteration (CIA) or the Mafic Index of Alteration (MIA)). Due to contrasting chemical compositions and high Ca content, a special adaptation of classical weathering indices is necessary to interpret weathering trends in carbonate-derived soil. In fact, this adaptation seems to be a good tool for distinguishing weathering grades of source-rock types at the continental scale, and allows a more robust interpretation of soil parent-material weathering grade and its impact on the current chemical composition of soil. An increasing degree of weathering results in Al enrichment and Mg loss in addition to Fe loss and Si enrichment, leaching of mobile cations such as Ca and Na, and precipitation of Fe-oxides and hydroxides. The relation between soil weathering status and its spatial distribution in Europe provides important information about the role played by climate and terrain. The geographical distribution of soil chemistry contributes to a better understanding of soil nutritional status, element enrichment, degradation mechanisms, desertification, soil erosion and contamination.
Chemical alteration
Major elements
Soil parent materials
Ternary plots
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