Legacy sediments are a widespread consequence of post-colonial upland erosion in the United States. Although these deposits are ubiquitous in valley bottoms of the southeastern Piedmont, mature hardwood forests and collapsed stream banks mask their occurrence. While these deposits have been studied for their fluvial dynamics and water quality impacts, they have received less attention in regards to soil structure and formation. In this study, we characterized legacy sediment mineraology, composition and structure to understand how pedogenic processes are overprinting sediment layering in a 40-hectare Piedmont floodplain. To constrain the timing of deposition, we used Pb-210 and C-14 dating on buried charcoal and tree stumps. Our results show that in 100 years of forest regeneration, vegetation and oscillating floodplain conditions have driven these eroded sediment deposits to evolve as soil profiles both in structure and composition. These textural and nutrient gradients have ramifications for the subsurface flow of nutrients through the floodplain. Given the estimated millennia it will take to erode legacy sediment from Piedmont floodplains, it is important to think of these deposits as new stable environments on their own trajectory of soil evolution.
Wade, Anna, Daniel deB. Richter (2017): A layered past: The transformation and development of legacy sediments as alluvial soils. American Geophysical Union 2017 Fall Meeting, New Orleans, Louisiana, 11-15 December 2017.
This Paper/Book acknowledges NSF CZO grant support.