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Using a structural approach to identify relationships between soil and erosion in a semi-humid forested area, South India

Abstract : Biogeochemical and hydrological cycles are currently studied on a small experimental forested watershed (4.5 km(2)) in the semi-humid South India. This paper presents one of the first data referring to the distribution and dynamics of a widespread red soil (Ferralsols and Chromic Luvisols) and black soil (Vertisols and Vertic intergrades) cover, and its possible relationship with the recent development of the erosion process. The soil map was established from the observation of isolated soil profiles and toposequences, and surveys of soil electromagnetic conductivity (EM31, Geonics Ltd), lithology and vegetation. The distribution of the different parts of the soil cover in relation to each other was used to establish the dynamics and chronological order of formation. Results indicate that both topography and lithology (gneiss and amphibolite) have influenced the distribution of the soils. At the downslope, the following parts of the soil covers were distinguished: i) red soil system, ii) black soil system, iii) bleached horizon at the top of the black soil and iv) bleached sandy saprolite at the base of the black soil. The red soil is currently transforming into black soil and the transformation front is moving upslope. In the bottom part of the slope, the chronology appears to be the following: black soil > bleached horizon at the top of the black soil > streambed > bleached horizon below the black soil. It appears that the development of the drainage network is a recent process, which was guided by the presence of thin black soil with a vertic horizon less than 2 in deep. Three distinctive types of erosional landforms have been identified: 1. rotational slips (Type 1); 2. a seepage erosion (Type 2) at the top of the black soil profile; 3. A combination of earthflow and sliding in the non-cohesive saprolite of the gneiss occurs at midslope (Type 3). Types 1 and 2 erosion are mainly occurring downslope and are always located at the intersection between the streambed and the red soil-black soil contact. Neutron probe monitoring, along an area vulnerable to erosion types 1 and 2, indicates that rotational slips are caused by a temporary watertable at the base of the black soil and within the sandy bleached saprolite, which behaves as a plane of weakness. The watertable is induced by the ephemeral watercourse. Erosion type 2 is caused by seepage of a perched watertable, which occurs after swelling and closing of the cracks of the vertic clay horizon and within a light textured and bleached horizon at the top of black soil. Type 3 erosion is not related to the red soil-black soil system but is caused by the seasonal seepage of saturated throughflow in the sandy saprolite of the gneiss occurring at midslope.
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Laurent Barbiero, H.R. Parate, Marc Descloitres, Adelphe Bost, S. Furian, et al.. Using a structural approach to identify relationships between soil and erosion in a semi-humid forested area, South India. CATENA, Elsevier, 2007, 70 (3), pp.313-329. ⟨10.1016/j.catena.2006.10.013⟩. ⟨hal-00323578⟩

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