• A study of soil topo-sequences in the Steese and White Mountains of Alaska

      Geisler, Eric S.; Ping, Chien-Lu; Juday, Glen; Swanson, David (2018-08)
      The Steese Mountains of Alaska present a complex landscape on which to study soil formation and characteristics in relation to topographic position. The White and Steese Mountains of Alaska are located approximately 70 to 220 km northeast of Fairbanks. Ten toposequences with 3 or 4 sites each were described in the field, sampled, and analyzed in the laboratory in order to determine the relationship between soil morphology and soil-forming factors. Permafrost is discontinuous within the study area and vegetation ranges from tundra on summits to boreal stands of resin birch, quaking aspen, black spruce and white spruce along the lower elevations. There have been many wildfires over time that may have altered the soils and affected the vegetation successional patterns. The processes through which various soil patterns have formed and the unique characteristics of the soils are described here based on field data obtained from both burned and unburned sites. The analysis includes biophysical settings, parent material, texture and nutrient concentrations. Organic horizons were common on most of the transects and play a key role in the depth of the active layer where they exist. Nutrient concentrations are also closely tied to the presence and depth of the organic horizons. Some patterns described in other areas of the boreal region were not observed in this study. There were some soil properties that are not readily described under the current taxonomy protocols which are suggested to be added in a future revision of Soil Taxonomy.