Soil genesis in volcanic terrain may be controlled by complex assemblages of parent materials and local topography. The objective of this work was to quantify topographic and parent material controls on soil and catchment evolution in a mixed conifer, montane catchment in the Valles Caldera, New Mexico, as part of the Jemez River Basin Critical Zone Observatory. The field site is a 16 ha catchment at an elevation of 3,000 m, with a frigid soil temperature regime (0-8*C), ustic soil moisture regime with bimodal precipitation of winter snowfall and convective summer rainfall (880 mm/yr), and an overstory dominated by spruce and fir with dense grass cover in open areas. The catchment is located on the resurgent Redondo Dome that uplifted shortly after the last major eruption of the Valles Caldera 1.2 My ago. The dome includes a complex assemblage of pre-eruptive caldera materials and extant sedimentary rocks embedded within a welded, hydrothermally altered rhyolitic tuff. We sampled a transect of seven soil profiles spanning the dominant east-west aspect of the catchment across a catena with profiles located in summit, backslope, footslope, and toeslope positions. Soil morphology was described in the field and soil samples analyzed using a range of geochemical and mineralogical techniques including quantitative and qualitative x-ray diffraction of bulk samples and particle size fractions, elemental analysis by x-ray fluorescence, and laser particle size analysis. The data indicated strong landscape position control on soil drainage, grading from well-drained summits to poorly-drained toeslope positions based on the presence/absence of redoximorphic features. The drainage patterns were coupled with downslope thickening of dark, organic matter rich surface horizons, likely a function of both in situ organic matter production and downslope colluvial transport of carbon rich surface materials. Mineralogical and geochemical data indicated clear within profile lithologic discontinuities in backslope, footslope and toeslope positions that suggest post dome resurgence ash deposition and redistribution via physical erosion. Additionally, the majority of sites contained a modern dust signal in the upper 5 to 10 cm of the soil profile based on Ti:Zr, mica content, and particle size distribution. The dominant weathering patterns include feldspar transformation to kaolinite and alteration of volcanic glass and/or 2:1 primary minerals to smectite. Smectite is a combination of both authigenic smectite formed during hydrothermal alteration of the tuff and neogenic smectite as suggested by Si-rich soil solution and surface waters. The data indicate a sequence of dome uplift followed by periods of pedogenesis and ash input, subsequent ash redistribution via physical erosion, and modern mass input via eolian dust. The timing and magnitude of these events and impacts on chemical weathering are the subjects of ongoing model and measurement activities.
Rasmussen, C., Meding, S.M., Vazquez, A., Chorover, J. (2011): Domes, Ash and Dust - Controls on soil genesis in a montane catchment of the Valles Caldera, New Mexico. AGU Fall Meeting Presentations (Poster) Abstract EP51B-0845..