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Faculty for Biology, Chemistry and Earth Sciences

Department Soil Ecology - Prof. Dr. Eva Lehndorff

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Kühn, P; Lehndorff, E; Fuchs, M: Lateglacial to Holocene pedogenesis and formation of colluvial deposits in loess landscapes of Central Europe (Wetterau, Germany), Catena, 154, 118-135 (2017), doi:10.1016/j.catena.2017.02.015
Loess areas in Central Europe have been settled since ancient times and are therefore predestined to archive information about both the paleoenvironment with and without human activities. In gentle rolling loess-landscapes distinct short and shallow valleys, so-called dells, are prominent landscape elements that act as sediment traps. The loess-paleosol-colluvium (LPC) sequence of Gambach (Wetterau, Germany) can be regarded as an exceptional sequence for Lateglacial-Holocene pedogenesis and human impact in dry loess landscapes with < 600 mm mean annual precipitation in Central Europe. The focus of this study is to reconstruct different stages of Lateglacial/Holocene pedogenesis and to trace back the impact of humans on such a landscape by an integration of AMS14C and luminescence datings together with soil chemical (organic C, N, and fire derived black C), soil physical and micromorphological analyses. The LPC sequence of Gambach reflects climate-controlled pedogenesis from ca. 15 ka to 4.7 ka with the formation of a Cambisol having some properties related to Chernozem soil forming processes during the Lateglacial. A Chernozem is developed in the deposits of the Laacher See Tephra, which still show the influence of periglacial climate in their lowermost part. The upper part of these deposits was relocated by colluvial processes at around 6.7 ka. Chernozem soil forming processes were still ongoing until 4.7 ka when these shifted to Luvisol formation, which is still active today. Since 4.7 ka, extended land use - with indications of agricultural fire use since at least 2.3 ka - led to the formation of colluvial deposits combined with a topographic leveling of upland positions on a landscape-scale. The results of the formative element of humans on loess landscapes from the Wetterau can also be taken as representative for around 9400 km2 of dry loess landscapes in Central Europe.
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