Soils are a complex biological, physical, mineralogical, and chemical
system that have developed in response to the environment both past and
present. Thus, properties of a soil at any point in the landscape can be
considered the result of interactions among five factors considered by
most scientists to control soil formation (Jenny, 1941). Four of these
factors, climate, topography, vegetation, and parent material are active
and describe the physical environment to which the soil has been exposed.
The fifth, time, allows the other four factors to express themselves on
the soil we observe today. Because of the range of conditions observed
for these five factors, we have an almost endless diversity of soils, and
local distribution of soils across the landscape often seems completely
undecipherable to an untrained observer. However, a broader view of soils
based on general distribution trends among the five factors, especially
the four environmental factors, often yields understandable patterns that
may aid in developing better understanding of patterns at the local scale.
For the most part, variation in the four environmental factors and, to
a lesser extent, time is reflected in the concept of Major Land Resource
Areas (MLRAs)(USDA-SCS, 1981). These divisions reflect broad differences
in geology, topography, climate, and vegetation across the southern region
and the United States. Thus, this chapter is intended to present a general
overview of topography, parent materials, and soils for each MLRA in the
southern region. The MLRAs included in this chapter are those delineated
in Agriculture Handbook 296 (USDA-SCS, 1981). Additional MLRAs have been
recognized since this publication, and new ones will continue to be added
as our understanding of soils and landscapes continues to develop. Thus,
material in this chapter reflects our understanding at a fixed point in
time, and will need modification as new, more detailed divisions of the
landscape are created.
In the Atlantic segment and as far west as central Alabama, the Coastal
Plain is bounded by metamorphic rocks of the Piedmont. Along much of this
boundary, the Coastal Plain laps onto the Piedmont for short distances.
This irregular and often ill-defined boundary is referred to as the fall
line because the Piedmont is topographically higher than the younger Coastal
Plain (Daniels et al., 1973). West and north of central Alabama, Cretaceous
and Tertiary sediments of the Coastal Plain abut Paleozoic sedimentary
rocks, and along the Mississippi River valley, Coastal Plain sediments
are commonly loess capped. In Arkansas, Oklahoma, and east Texas, the interior
boundary of the Coastal Plain is the contact between Cretaceous and older
rocks. However, farther south in Texas, only Upper Cretaceous and younger
sediments are included in the Coastal Plain with Lower Cretaceous rocks
assigned to other geomorphic units (Thornbury, 1965).
As would be expected for such a large region, it can be subdivided into
many smaller subareas. Sharp lines seldom separate one subarea from another.
The section of the Atlantic Coastal Plain from Virginia to the Neuse River
in North Carolina is often referred to as the "Embayed Section." This area
is composed of a series of Miocene to Holocene terraces from the fall line
to the coast, and rivers end in large estuaries (Thornbury, 1965; Daniels
et al., 1973). South of the Neuse River, the coastwise terraces continue
into the "Sea Island Section." In this section, however, the drowned river
valleys of the Embayed Section disappear and a series of barrier islands
are found along the coast (Daniels et al., 1973). The interior margin of
this section is composed of older Eocene and Cretaceous sandy sediments
forming a belt of rolling hills referred to as the Fall Line Hills or Sand
Hills (MLRA 137; Carolina and Georgia Sand Hills). South of the Sea Island
Section is the Florida Peninsula which consists of an upland core surrounded
by irregular belts of plains and coastal lowlands (Murray, 1961).
The boundary between the Atlantic and East Gulf Coastal Plain subareas
is poorly defined topographically. However, a short distance west of the
Georgia-South Carolina boundary the number and thickness of Eocene and
Cretaceous beds increase resulting in a widening of the Coastal Plain.
Coupled with the increase in number of Eocene and Cretaceous beds is an
increase in the lithologic variability of the beds producing substantial
variation in the erodibility of the rocks. Therefore, the East Gulf Coastal
Plain is comprised of a series of lowlands formed in erodible marls and
clays separated by more resistant beds forming cuestas with in-facing escarpments
(Thornbury, 1965). The alternating lowlands and areas with greater topographic
relief give the region a belted topography. The coastwise stepped terraces
that comprise much of the Atlantic Coastal Plain become topographically
important near the Gulf, but these terraces are only about 30 to 80 km
wide (Daniels et al., 1973).
The West Gulf Coastal Plain lies west of the Mississippi River and has
many characteristics in common with the East Gulf Coastal Plain. The region
is also a belted Coastal Plain composed of several topographic and geologic
belts similar to those found in the East Gulf Coastal Plain but having
different names. In general, the West Gulf Coastal Plain is wider than
the East Gulf Coastal Plain, and consequently, major rivers have larger
drainage basins and deltas that are more extensive. Low terraces along
the coast are formed from fluvial-deltaic sediments derived from these
major rivers (Thornbury, 1965). The Coastal Plain as a broad physiographic
province includes a number of MLRAs. The remainder of this section is a
brief discussion of topography, parent materials, and soils characteristic
Southern Coastal Plain (MLRA 133A)
This MLRA is the largest in the southern region extending from Virginia
to the Mississippi River Valley. It is well dissected with nearly level
to gently undulating valleys and gently sloping to steep uplands. Soil
parent materials are unconsolidated sands, silts, and clays, and textural
characteristics of the soils generally reflect the differences in parent
material texture. The combination of parent material, climate, and age
of geomorphic surface has resulted in most soils in this MLRA being well
developed Ultisols that have a clay increase between A or E horizons and
subjacent argillic or kandic horizons. Thickness of sand or loamy sand
A and E horizons ranges from a few centimeters to more than 2 m (Quartzipsamments).
Most upland soils are acidic, deep, well or moderately well drained, and
have dominantly kaolinitic clays. Plinthite is a common feature in subsoils.
Soils in the Atlantic and eastern part of the Gulf portion of this MLRA
(east of about Montgomery, Alabama) dominantly have kandic subsurface horizons
(horizon with clay increase and low-activity clays; CEC at pH 7 <16
cmol kg-1 clay and ECEC <12 cmol kg-1 clay) in
addition to argillic horizons. Thus, the dominant great groups in this
part of the MLRA are Kandiudults or Kanhapludults. Kaolinite is also the
major component of soils in the western part of the MLRA, but minor amounts
of other, more active clay minerals increase activity of the clay fraction.
Therefore, soils in this part of the MLRA have only argillic horizons and
classify as Paleudults or Hapludults.
Carolina and Georgia Sand Hills (MLRA 137)
This region occurs along the Coastal Plain - Piedmont boundary from
the Neuse River in North Carolina to the western border of Georgia. This
MLRA is underlain by Cretaceous and Tertiary deposits with abundant sand.
The area is dissected and rolling to hilly. Soils are similar to those
found in MLRA 133A and are deep, well drained, acidic, and have argillic
and kandic horizons. Great groups are dominantly Kandiudults and Kanhapludults.
The abundance of sand in this MLRA results in many of the Ultisols being
in arenic and grossarenic subgroups. If sands are thicker than 2 m, the
soils classify as Entisols (Quartzipsamments).
Western Coastal Plain (MLRA 133B)
Similarities in climate and geology between this MLRA and the western
part of the Southern Coastal Plain have resulted in similar soils and landscapes.
Dominant great groups include Paleudults, Hapludults, and Fragiudults.
Arenic and Grossarenic subgroups are common. Alfisols are more common than
in MLRA 133A, especially in more poorly drained parts of the landscape.
Rhodic subgroups occur occasionally over sediments rich in glauconite.
Texas Blackland Prairie (MLRA 86) and Texas Claypan Area (MLRA 87)
South and west of MLRA 133B, the belted Coastal Plain has been subdivided
into these two MLRAs. In the region encompassed by these MLRAs, rainfall
amounts are less than that found in the Coastal Plain to the east, and
upland soils are in ustic rather than udic moisture regimes.
The western belt of the Texas Blackland Prairie is underlain by Upper
Cretaceous chalks and marls while the more eastern belts are underlain
by younger clayey sediments. Landscapes in this MLRA are mostly nearly
level to gently sloping, and major rivers crossing the region have broad,
shallow valleys. Soils are dominantly clayey, often calcareous, and smectite
is the dominant clay mineral. Thus, Vertisols are the most common order
with Haplusterts being the major great group. Areas of more resistant chalk
deposits occur near the inner margin of the Coastal Plain. These areas
are more rolling and soils are dominantly Haplustolls and Ustorthents.
The Texas Claypan Area is a nearly level to gently sloping plain. Steeper
slopes occur along entrenched creek valleys. Valleys of large streams are
broad and shallow and have wide flood plains bordered by nearly level terraces.
Vertisols are common in these valleys. Upland soils commonly have sandy
loam surface horizons underlain by clayey or loamy argillic horizons. They
have high base saturation and clays are dominantly smectitic. Thus, clayey
argillic horizons have high shrink-swell and slow saturated hydraulic conductivity.
Paleustalfs are the major great group.
Rio Grande Plains and Valley (MLRAs 83A, 83B, 83C, and 83D)
To the south and west of MLRAs 86 and 87 lies this broad region influenced
by the current and past Rio Grande River and the Rio Grande Embayment.
Sediments include marine and deltaic deposits, eolian sands, and Rio Grande
River fluvial deposits. Landscapes in this region are mostly nearly level
to gently undulating. There is a strong rainfall gradient from the coast
to the western limit of these MLRAs. Thus, soils in both ustic and aridic
moisture regimes are found in the region. Soils are commonly calcareous,
and the abundance of smectitic clays results in high cation exchange capacities.
In the northern section of the region (MLRA 83A), soils are deep and
moderately coarse to coarse textured. Major great groups include Paleustalfs,
Argiustolls, Calciustolls, and Haplustepts. Petrocalcic horizons are common
in certain landscapes. MLRA 83B (Western Rio Grande Plain) contains deep,
fine-textured soils that are commonly saline. Great groups common in the
region include Haplusterts, Haplustolls, Calciustolls, and Haplocalcids.
Soils in MLRA 83C (Central Rio Grande Plain) are deep and moderately coarse
to coarse textured. Common great groups include Paleustalfs, Haplustalfs,
and Calciustolls. In parts of the MLRA with a thick capping of eolian sand,
Arenic and Grossarenic subgroups of Paleustalfs are common as are Ustipsamments
(sands > 2 m deep). The Lower Rio Grande Valley (MLRA 83D) is comprised
of the floodplain and terraces of the Rio Grande River. Much of the area
is nearly level, and drainageways are shallow with low gradient. Saline
soils are common. Dominant great groups include Paleustalfs, Haplustalfs,
Calciustolls, and Haplusterts.
Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas Blackland Prairie (MLRA 135)
Outcroppings of Cretaceous clays, marls, and chalks similar to those
found in the Texas Blackland Prairies are found in the Coastal Plain of
Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, and western Georgia. These outcroppings
have resulted in a narrow discontinuous belt of clayey soils comprising
this MLRA. Relief is generally low. Surface horizons are often acidic,
but pH and base saturation increase with depth, and many soils in the region
are calcareous in lower horizons. In contrast to surrounding areas on the
Coastal Plain, soils in this MLRA have clay fractions dominated by smectite
that result in high shrink-swell and very slow saturated hydraulic conductivity.
Vertisols, Mollisols, and Alfisols are common. Major great groups include
Dystruderts, Epiaquerts, Dystraquerts, Hapluderts, Paleudalfs, and Eutrudepts.
and Gulf Coastal Plains
Atlantic Coast Flatwoods (MLRA 153A), Tidewater Area (MLRA 153B),
and Eastern Gulf Coast Flatwoods (MLRA 152A)
Soils in these MLRAs are mostly acidic with low base saturation. Subsoil
textures range from sand to clay and many soils have a clay increase between
sandy A and E horizons and underlying argillic horizons. Many of the sandy
soils have subsoil accumulations of Al and organic C (spodic horizons).
Major great groups include Alorthods, Alaquods, Paleaquults, Quartzipsamments,
Umbraquults, and Paleudults. Histosols are common in large swampy areas
and closed depressions.
Western Gulf Coast Flatwoods (MLRA 152B)
Soils in this region are deep and have high base saturation. Subsoil
textures are loamy and clayey and most soils have an argillic horizon.
Many areas have seasonal water tables at or near the surface. Common great
groups include Glossaqualfs, Epiaqualfs, Albaqualfs, Paleudalfs, and Paleudults.
Gulf Coast Marsh (MLRA 151)
This MLRA is found only in Louisiana. Elevations are commonly less
than 2 m except for beach ridges and salt dome islands. The low areas are
subject to frequent flooding either by fresh water from adjoining uplands
or by salt water from the Gulf of Mexico. Soils are poorly or very poorly
drained. Histosols are common, as are Haplaquolls and Fluvaquents.
Gulf Coast Prairies (MLRA 150A)
This region is nearly level with low local relief. Clayey sediments
with smectitic mineralogy are common resulting in soils with slow or very
slow hydraulic conductivity. Because of low conductivity and low relief,
most soils are somewhat poorly or poorly drained. Base saturation is high,
as is cation exchange capacity (CEC). Common great groups include Hapluderts,
Dystraquerts, Endoaquolls, Epiaqualfs, and Albaqualfs.
Gulf Coast Saline Prairies (MLRA 150B)
Elevations in this MLRA are commonly less than 3 m. The area is composed
of nearly level to gently sloping lowlands and island flats. Soils on barrier
islands are commonly Psammaquents and Udipsamments. Great groups common
on the mainland include Endoaquolls, Haplaquolls, and Albaqualfs. Hapluderts
occur over alkaline clayey sediments.
South-central Florida Ridge (MLRA 154)
This region is nearly level to gently rolling coastal plain with a
sandy mantle overlying limestone. The land surface is irregular with many
sinkholes forming closed depressions. Thickness of the sand mantle ranges
from less than 50 cm to more than 2 m. Sandy surface horizons overlie loamy
argillic horizons. Soils are acidic, kaolinitic, and have low base saturation.
Upland soils are well or moderately well drained. Soils in depressions
and on low landscape positions are poorly or very-poorly drained. Great
groups include Paleudults, Paleaquults, Endoaquults, and Quartzipsamments.
Southern Florida Flatwoods (MLRA 155)
This MLRA is a nearly level coastal plain with a sand mantle overlying
limestone. Local relief is generally less than 1 m, and swamps, marshes,
and lakes are common. Sand thickness ranges from less than 50 cm to more
than 2 m, and most soils are somewhat poorly or poorly drained. Most soils
are acidic and kaolinitic, and many have spodic or argillic horizons. A
few poorly drained soils with limestone parent materials have dark surface
horizons, high base saturation, and are Mollisols. Common great groups
in the area are Alaquods, Psammaquents, Paleaquults, and Argiaquolls.
Florida Everglades and Associated Areas (MLRA 156A)
As the name implies, this region is a level low coastal plain. It is
mostly flat with many swamps, marshes, and poorly defined broad streams.
Most of the soils are poorly or very-poorly drained. Histosols are common,
as are wet sandy soils. Common great groups include Haplosaprists, Haplofibrists,
Psammaquents, and Endoaqualfs. Sulfihemists, Sulfisaprists, and Sulfaquents
are found along the coast.
Southern Florida Lowlands (MLRA 156B)
This MLRA consists of broad flat lowlands with a sand mantle over loamy
sediments. Surface horizons are sandy and overlie sandy C horizons or loamy
argillic horizons. Most soils are poorly or very poorly drained. Soils
in the region include Endoaqualfs, Argiaquolls, Psammaquents, Haplaquolls,
There are two minor areas within the Piedmont with geology and thus,
soils that are considerably different than the rest of the region. The
first is a series of down-faulted basins containing sedimentary sandstone,
siltstone, mudstone, and shale of Triassic and Jurassic age (Hack, 1989).
The second is generally referred to as the Carolina Slate Belt which is
an area of low relief containing Cambrian and Precambrian low-grade metamorphic
rocks of volcanic origin (slate, acidic and basic tuff, breccia, and flows)
The Piedmont is generally well dissected with commonly accordant summits
constituting a broad plateau-like surface. Maximum relief in the region
is generally <350 m though higher isolated peaks occur (Murray, 1961).
The region slopes to the east and south with general surface slope being
about 4 m km -1 . The lack of topographic expression on the interfluves
has been used as evidence that the Piedmont is a peneplain (Thornbury,
1965; Holmes, 1964). An alternate hypothesis is that this surface is the
result of long-term weathering and uplift in the region (Pavich, 1985;
Most soils are well drained and at least moderately permeable. Surface
horizons are commonly sandy loam with clayey or loamy subsoils. Soils developed
over felsic saprolite are acidic, have low base saturation, have kandic
horizons (low activity clays), and are dominantly Ultisols. Dominant great
groups include Kanhapludults and Hapludults. Soils developed from intermediate
and mafic saprolite have high base saturation and clays with higher activity.
Thus, many of these soils are Alfisols with mixed or smectitic mineralogy
although Ultisols are also common. Common great groups are Hapludalfs and
Hapludults. High iron content in the mafic parent material has resulted
in many soils being in Rhodic subgroups.
Within the Carolina Slate Belt, interfluves are irregular, and sharp
topographic breaks are common. Deep soils generally occupy more gently
sloping parts of the region, and shallow soils occur on convex parts of
the landscape (Daniels et al., 1984). The fine grain size of the
rocks in this region results in soils with higher silt and very fine sand
contents than the rest of the Piedmont. Surface textures are generally
silt loam and Bt horizon textures range from silty clay loam to clay. As
in other Piedmont soils, the soils are acidic, have low base saturation,
and the dominant clay mineral in most of these soils is kaolinite. Soils
in the Carolina Slate Belt are dominantly Hapludults.
The Triassic Basin is topographically lower than the Piedmont landscapes
that surround it, and local relief is generally less than most of the Piedmont.
The Triassic rocks include shale, dark and light colored sandstone, mudstone,
siltstone, and conglomerate. These rock types are easier to erode than
the surrounding crystalline rocks, which accounts for the topographic low
nature of the basin (Daniels et al., 1984). Most soils in this region are
moderately permeable, well drained, and have dominantly kaolinitic clays.
The dominant great group in the region is Hapludults.
Blue Ridge (MLRA 130)
Mountains in this MLRA are often described as subdued as compared with
those in the western United States (Thornbury, 1965). Peaks are generally
rounded, and a mantle of saprolite commonly occurs over harder rocks forming
the core of the mountains (Daniels et al., 1973). Bare cliffs and peaks
are rare. Soil creep is common on steep slopes, and colluvium is a common
parent material on lower hillslope segments and in narrow valleys (Stolt
et al., 1993).
Parent materials in this MLRA are dominantly acid igneous and metamorphic
rocks. Soils are commonly deep, well drained, and acidic. Base saturation
is generally low, and kaolinite commonly is the major clay mineral in these
soils. Because of free movement of water, soils in the Blue Ridge are often
strongly desilicated, and gibbsite contents are often high even in moderately
developed soils (Calvert et al., 1980; Norfleet and Smith, 1989).
Ultisols (Kanhapludults and Hapludults) are common on gentle slopes
at lower elevations. Inceptisols (Dystrudepts) are the most common soils
on steep slopes. At high elevations (>900 to 1000 m) especially on north
and northeast facing slopes, Humic Dystrudepts with thick, dark surface
horizons are common. Alfisols and Inceptisols with high base saturation
are commonly found overlying isolated areas of mafic rocks in the region.
Appalachian Ridges and Valleys (MLRA 128)
Most soils in this MLRA are well drained, acidic, and have low base
saturation. Soils on stable positions on ridges and in valleys have argillic
horizons and are dominantly Hapludults and Paleudults. Soils on steep slopes
are commonly Dystrudepts. Soils over cherty limestone are often gravelly
and Mountains (MLRA 125) and Sand Mountain (MLRA 129)
Interior Low Plateaus
The interior part of the region is an undulating to rolling plateau
with an extensively dissected rim surrounding a less dissected interior
(Schoeneberger, 1996). Sinkholes are common in many areas underlain by
limestone. The western and northern parts of the area are capped by loess
deposited from the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers.
Kentucky and Indiana Sandstone and Shale Hills and Valleys (MLRA
This MLRA is hilly with broad undulating ridgetops and broad, nearly-level
terraces along the Ohio and other major rivers. Parent materials are loess
and loess over residuum from sandstone, shale, and siltstone. Alfisols
are abundant. Fragiudalfs and Hapludalfs are dominant on upland ridges
and sideslopes. Hapludolls, Eutrudepts, Fluvaquents, and Endoaquepts are
common on floodplains of major streams.
Kentucky Bluegrass (MLRA 121)
Topography ranges from highly dissected hills to broad undulating upland
plains. Upland parent materials are Ordovician and Devonian limestone.
Sinkholes occur but are less common than in the Highland Rim and Pennyroyal
(Thornbury, 1965). Soils are dominantly Alfisols (Paleudalfs and Hapludalfs)
formed from limestone from thinly interbedded limestone, shale, and siltstone,
or from loess over residuum.
Highland Rim and Pennyroyal (MLRA 122)
This area is topographically diverse with low rolling hills, upland
flats, and narrow valleys. Steep slopes are common along borders with the
Nashville Basin (MLRA 123) and Southern Coastal Plain (MLRA 133A). Parent
material is dominantly Pennsylvanian limestone, and many areas are pitted
with limestone sinks. The northern part of the MLRA has thin loess over
residuum. Soils are commonly deep and many are acidic with low base saturation,
especially in middle and southern parts of the MLRA. Common great groups
in uplands include Paleudults, Hapludults, and Fragiudults. Fragiaquults
are common in shallow depressions. Paleudalfs are common on broad smooth
loess-capped areas in the northern part of the MLRA.
Nashville Basin (MLRA 123)
Ordovician, Silurian, and Devonian limestone is the dominant soil parent
material. The outer part of the basin is deeply dissected and consists
of steep slopes from narrow valleys to narrow rolling ridgetops. The inner
part of the basin is undulating to rolling hills with common limestone
sinks and limestone outcrops. Limestone in the inner part of the basin
is low in P. However, limestone in the outer part has up to 23% P2
O5, and soils are generally higher in P than other soils in
the southeast (Thornbury, 1965; Edwards et al., 1974). Paleudalfs and Hapludalfs
are dominant great groups in both the inner and outer basins. Skeletal
Hapludults occur on steep slopes on the rim of the basin.
Much of the valley is occupied by alluvium, but upland ridges break
the continuity of the valley floor. Crowley’s Ridge is the most prominent
of these. It extends for about 300 km from southeast Missouri to east central
Arkansas and rises as much as 70 m above the valley floor. This ridge is
composed of Eocene Coastal Plain deposits capped by Pliocene gravel which
is capped by up to 20 m of loess (Thornbury, 1965; West et al., 1980).
South of Crowley’s Ridge in extreme southeast Arkansas and northeast Louisiana
is Macon Ridge. This ridge is about 7 to 13 m higher than the valley floor
and is composed of Pleistocene alluvium capped by loess (Daniels et al.,
On the west side of the Mississippi River valley in the lowlands between
Crowley’s Ridge and the Ozark Highlands is a series of Pleistocene and
Holocene alluvial terraces formed by the ancestral Mississippi River before
its diversion to the lowlands east of Crowley’s Ridge (Saucier, 1974).
The oldest and highest terraces are capped by loess deposits while the
lower terraces are primarily alluvium (Rutledge et al., 1985; West and
Rutledge, 1987). The Grand Prairie of Arkansas also occurs west of the
Mississippi River and is composed of Mississippi and Arkansas River sediments
capped by loess.
Southern Mississippi Valley Alluvium (MLRA 131)
Characteristics of alluvial soils in this MLRA depend on age, depositional
environment within the river floodplain, and natural drainage. Natural
levees in the modern Mississippi River floodplain are up to 2 km wide with
correspondingly wide backswamps and abandoned meander loops. Surface
texture of soils on natural levees and low terraces are silt loam to sandy
loam, and most soils have an argillic horizon and associated subsoil clay
increase. Soil drainage is related to its position on the levee and ranges
from well to poorly drained. Dominant great groups are Hapludalfs, Hapludolls,
Endoaqualfs, and Natraqualfs. Soils in backswamp areas are normally clayey
and poorly drained. Common great groups include Haplaquerts, Dystraquerts,
and Endoaquepts although Histosols occur in abandoned meander loops, especially
in the southern part of the valley.
Southern Mississippi Valley Silty Uplands (MLRA 134)
Soils in this MLRA vary depending on loess thickness, physiography,
landscape position, and natural drainage. In areas of thick loess near
the Mississippi River, soils are commonly Hapludalfs and Fragiudalfs. On
the east side of the valley at a distance from the Mississippi River, soils
with thin loess over Coastal Plain sediments are common and classify in
Hapludalfs, Fragiudalfs, and Hapludults great groups. Loess capped terraces
west of the Mississippi River generally have low relief, and soils are
Hapludalfs, Fragiudalfs, Glossaqualfs, Albaqualfs, and Endoaqualfs.
Ozark Plateau (MLRAs
116A and 117)
Soils in the Ozark Highland (MLRA 116A) are primarily developed from
limestone. Most are deep and well or moderately- well drained, and many
have abundant chert (loamy-skeletal and clayey-skeletal particle size classes)
inherited from the underlying rock. Textures are silty, and fragipans are
common even in soils with high chert contents. Dominant great groups include
Paleudults, Paleudalfs, and Fragiudults.
The Boston Mountains (MLRA 117) lie south of the Ozark Highland. Parent
materials are Pennsylvanian sandstone and shale. Ridgetops are more narrow
and rolling than those in the Ozark Highland. Soils shallow to sandstone
or shale are common as are those with abundant rock fragments. Dominant
great groups include Hapludults and Paleudults.
and Ridges (MLRA 118)
The Arkansas valley forms an east to west strip 30 to 60 km wide along
the Arkansas River. This region is underlain by Pennsylvanian sandstone
and shale and has less intense folding and lower relief than the Ouachita
Mountains. Ridges are underlain by resistant sandstone, and valleys are
underlain by less resistant sandstone and shale. Ridge crests are narrow
with steep sideslopes into broad valleys. Hapludults and Paleudults are
common on ridgetops and sideslopes while Fragiudults are often found in
valleys. The floodplain and terraces of the Arkansas River are composed
of Quaternary alluvial deposits, and soils are dominantly Hapludalfs and
The Ouachita Mountains are composed of intensely folded, structurally
complex, east-west trending mountain groups separated by basins. Rocks
comprising these mountains are Ordovician to Pennsylvanian sandstone, quartzite,
chert, shale, and slate. Topography is generally controlled by rock folding
(synclines and anticlines), and consequently, the area has a trellis drainage
pattern. Local relief ranges up to 350 m. In general, ridges are underlain
by sandstone, quartzite, or chert, and valleys are underlain by shale or
slate. Soils on ridgetops and sideslopes are mostly well drained moderately
deep Hapludults. Shallow Dystrudepts occur on steep slopes.
Central Rolling Red Plains (MLRA 78)
This area is underlain predominately by gently dipping Permian-aged,
weakly-consolidated sandstone, siltstone, and shale. The area has broad
gently rolling interfluves with steep slopes into narrow valleys. In places,
eolian sands form a rolling dunal topography bordering valleys. Soils in
the region are Argiustolls, Paleustolls, Haplustalfs, Paleustalfs, Haplustepts,
and Haplusterts with mixed mineralogy.
Central Rolling Red Prairies (MLRA 80A)
Rocks in this region are Pennsylvanian and Permian limestone, sandstone,
and shale. Topography in the area is dominantly broad undulating divides
and broad valleys partially filled with local alluvium. Soils in the area
include Argiustolls, Paleustolls, and Haplustolls.
Texas North Central Prairies (MLRA 80B)
This region is topographically and stratigraphically similar to the
Central Rolling Red Prairies. However, isolated mesas capped by consolidated
limestone or sandstone are scattered through the region. Soils on broad
divides and valleys are Haplusterts, Haplustolls, Paleustalfs, and Calciustolls.
Soils on mesa tops are generally shallow to rock and include Calciustolls,
Haplustepts, and Argiustolls.
Cross Timbers (MLRA 84A)
This MLRA is underlain by Pennsylvanian sandstone and sandy shale.
The topography is dominantly rolling to hilly uplands with narrow stream
valleys. Soils in the region have loamy sand or sandy loam surface horizons
underlain by loamy or clayey subsoils. Dominant great groups are Haplustalfs,
Paleustalfs, and Paleustults.
West Cross Timbers (MLRA 84B)
Rocks in this region are chiefly Cretaceous and Permian weakly-consolidated
sandstone. Topography in this area is nearly level to rolling with narrow
stream valleys. Soils have loamy sand and sandy loam surface horizons,
loamy or clayey argillic horizons, and are mostly Paleustalfs and Haplustalfs.
A few areas of Quartzipsamments are found in areas of thick sand.
East Cross Timbers (MLRA 84C)
This area is composed of gently sloping to rolling uplands with narrow
stream valleys. Rocks are mostly Cretaceous and Tertiary weakly-consolidated
sandstone. Soils have sandy loam surfaces underlain by loamy subsoils.
Common great groups include Paleustalfs, Haplustalfs, Haplustults, and
Grand Prairie (MLRA 85)
The Grand Prairie is dominated by flat-topped mesas with steep sideslopes
into broad valleys. Rocks are Cretaceous-aged weakly and strongly consolidated
limestone. Mesas are capped by strongly consolidated limestone and variable
consolidation of deeper limestone strata gives the mesa sideslopes a characteristic
benched topography with varying soil depth (West et al., 1988). The broad
valleys are gently undulating to rolling, and soils include Haplusterts,
Haplustolls, Calciustolls, and Argiustolls. Soils on mesas tops and sideslopes
are commonly shallow to limestone and many are stony. Great groups include
Haplustolls, Calciustolls, Argiustolls, and Haplustepts.
Cherokee Prairies (MLRA 112)
This MLRA is gently rolling to hilly with local relief mostly less
than 30 m. Topographic highs are commonly east facing cuestas formed by
the regional westward dip to the strata and a few low sandstone capped
buttes. Rocks are Pennsylvanian limestone, shale, and limy clay. Soils
over most of the region are Albaqualfs, Argiaquolls, Argiudolls, Paleudolls,
Within this MLRA lie the Wichita and Arbuckle Mountains. The Wichita
Mountains rise about 150 to 400 m above the surrounding plains and are
composed of Precambrian and Cambrian igneous rocks (Thornbury, 1965). Soils
in these mountains are generally stony and many are shallow to rock. Great
groups include Argiustolls and Haplustolls. The Arbuckle Mountains are
generally lower than the Wichita Mountains and are composed of a core of
Precambrian granite surrounded by Cambrian to Pennsylvanian limestone and
shale (Thornbury, 1965). Soils are commonly shallow to rock and include
Haplustalfs and Haplustolls.
Covering a large portion of the Southern High Plains are Pleistocene
eolian sands deposited from the southwest which server as the parent material
for most soils in the MLRA. Only in the southwest portion of the region
is a dunal topography present, and thus, the eolian sand capping is generally
referred to as "cover sands" (Daniels et al., 1973).
A distinctive feature of the region is numerous shallow closed depressions
or playas. Larger playas contain water most of the time, but smaller ones
are only filled with water after heavy rains. The origin of the playas
is unclear, but wind deflation appears to be a contributing mechanism as
dunes are commonly present on the east sides of the depressions (Daniels
et al., 1973).
Soils on the broad interfluves in this MLRA are well drained and include
Paleustolls, Paleustalfs, Haplustalfs, and Calciustolls. In playas, soils
are often poorly drained and clayey. They include Epiaquerts and Haplusterts
with Haplustolls and Calciustepts occurring on the rim of the playa. Soils
on steep breaks into stream valleys are commonly shallow and include Haplocalcids
Edwards Plateau (MLRA 81)
This region is an extensive tableland capped by resistant level-bedded
Cretaceous limestone. Valleys are broad and partially filled with local
alluvium. Mesa tops are nearly level, and valleys are gently undulating
to rolling. Mesa sideslopes have a characteristic benched topography with
varying soil depth due to differential consolidation of limestone strata
out-cropping on the sideslopes. Soils on mesa tops are generally shallow
to limestone, often stony, and include Calciustolls, Argiustolls, Haplustolls,
and Haplustepts. In the western part of the region, rainfall is low, and
soils on mesas are Aridisols (Haplocambids and Petrocalcids). Soils in
valleys are deeper and are commonly Haplusterts, Haplustolls, or Calciustolls.
Central Texas Basin (MLRA 82)
This area was formed as a dome of intruded igneous rock that, because
overlying sediments have been eroded away, is now a topographic low area.
The central part of the region is composed of Precambrian granite and schist
that is circled by a ring of Cambrian sandstone (Thornbury, 1965). Most
of the area is gently rolling, but steeper slopes occur. Soils are commonly
Paleustalfs, Haplustalfs, and Haplustepts.
The diversity of soils in the Southern Region is great with nine of
the 12 soil orders found in the region. This diversity, however, only reflects
the diversity in the five factors that control formation and properties
of the soil at any point on the landscape. Climate ranges from warm humid
in Florida to cool semi-arid in the Texas High Plains. Local relief ranges
from more than 300 m in the Blue Ridge Mountains to less than 1 m in the
Texas High Plains and in coastal areas. Both forest and grassland native
vegetation occurs in the region with considerable variation in species
within each. Soil parent materials cover the full range from peat to thick
eolian sands to strongly consolidated rocks with corresponding differences
in texture and composition. Age of soils ranges from very young along active
floodplains to very old in the Piedmont and other geomorphically stable
parts of the region.
Soils vary across a large region such as the South, but they also vary
at the local scale. This local variability is a function of the same factors
that created the regional variability, and this variability can be understood
if the environment under which the soil developed can be understood. Only
with this understanding can we hope to preserve the non-renewable soil
resource for future generations.
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