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Soil Science Society of America Journal Abstract - DIVISION S-5—PEDOLOGY

Appalachian Mine Soil Morphology and Properties


This article in SSSAJ

  1. Vol. 68 No. 4, p. 1315-1325
    Received: Mar 13, 2003

    * Corresponding author(s): wdaniels@vt.edu
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  1. Kathryn C. Haering,
  2. W. Lee Daniels * and
  3. John M. Galbraith
  1. Dep. of Crop and Environmental Sciences, 244 Smyth Hall, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA 24061-0404


Surface coal mining and reclamation methods in the Appalachians have changed dramatically since the passage of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) of 1977 and subsequent improvements in mining and reclamation technology. In this study, 30 pre-SMCRA mine soil profiles (4–20 yr old) were examined and sampled in 1980 and compared with 20 mine soil profiles (8–13 yr old) described in the same area in 2002 after it had been completely remined by modern deep cut methods. Mine soils in both sampling years had high rock fragment content (42–81%), relatively well-developed A horizons, and generally exhibited A-C or A-AC-C horizonation. Although six Bw horizons were described in 1980, only two met all requirements for cambic horizons. The 1980 mine soils developed in overburden dominated by oxidized, preweathered material due to relatively shallow mining cuts. The 1980 mine soils had lower rock fragment content, finer textures, lower pH, and tended to be more heterogeneous in horizonation, morphology, and texture than soils observed in 2002, which had formed primarily in unweathered overburden from deeper cuts. Half the pedons sampled in both years had densic materials within 70 cm of the surface. Four poorly to very poorly drained soil profiles were described in each sampling year containing distinct hydric soil indicators in surface horizons. While older pre-SMCRA mine soils do have many properties in common with newer mine soils, their properties are highly influenced by the fact that they generally have formed in more weathered overburden from higher in the geologic column. Overall, Appalachian mine soils are much more complex in subsoil morphology than commonly assumed, and differential compaction greatly complicates their internal drainage and limits their overall productivity potential.

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