Why some soils vary over space and time?

Essay by katief November 2005

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Soils are greatly affected by the space which they are situated within. Many factors can greatly vary over a small space and this is why soils differ so much from place to place. One of the most influential factors in soil formation is climate. If precipitation is high then this will affect the amount of air in the soil. Very wet soil has little air within it and therefore supports different plant life and as a result different animals will live there. The plant and animal life also greatly influences the type of soil. This is because the O horizon is composed of dead and decaying plant materials and often animal remains. The inorganic materials which the soil is composed of, e.g. the rocks, can vary greatly in size. They vary from large pebbles to small particles of sand or clay. This parent material also controls the characteristics of a soil as it determines if it is easily permeable and how much air and water it can hold.

Time also affects the formation of soil. A younger soil has been less exposed to all of the conditions which a specific area is prone to. Whereas a more mature, older soil has been exposed to the soil forming factors and conditions for a lot longer. This results in the soil forming very different characteristics over time. Zonal, azonal and intrazonal soils are the some of the subdivisions which soils can be divided into. These subdivisions relate to the age of the soil. Zonal soils are mature soils which have been greatly exposed to climate and vegetation. They have been stable for a long period of time and often have distinct horizons and profiles. In zonal soils the climatic factor acts on the soil for a sufficient length of time that it...