Paleopedology as a tool for reconstructing paleoenvironments and paleoecology

Emily J. Beverly, William E. Lukens, Gary E. Stinchcomb

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

26 Scopus citations


Soils form as a product of physical, chemical, and biological activity at the outermost veneer of Earth’s surface. Once buried and incorporated into the sedimentary record, these soils, now paleosols, preserve archives of ancient climates, ecosystems, and sedimentary systems. Paleopedology, the study of paleosols, includes qualitative interpretation of physical characteristics and quantitative analysis of geochemical and mineralogical assays. In this chapter, the paleosol macroscopic, micromorphological, mineralogical, and geochemical indicators of paleoecology are discussed with emphasis on basic analytical and interpretative techniques. These data can reveal a breadth of site-specific interpretations of vegetation, sedimentary processes, climatic variables, and durations of landscape stability. The well-known soil-forming factors are presented as a theoretical framework for understanding landscape-scale soil evolution through time. Vertical and lateral patterns of stacked paleosols that appear in the rock record are discussed in order to address practical approaches to identifying and describing paleosols in the field. This chapter emphasizes a robust multi-proxy approach to paleopedology that combines soil stratigraphy, morphology, mineralogy, biology, and chemistry to provide an in-depth understanding of paleoecology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationVertebrate Paleobiology and Paleoanthropology
Number of pages33
StatePublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameVertebrate Paleobiology and Paleoanthropology
ISSN (Print)1877-9077

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018.


  • Human evolution
  • Paleo-Critical zone
  • Paleocatena
  • Paleoenvironments
  • Paleosol
  • Soil


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