Calcrete profile development in quaternary alluvial sequences, southeast Spain: Implications for using calcretes as a basis for landform chronologies

Ian Candy (Lead / Corresponding author), Stuart Black, Bruce W. Sellwood, John S. Rowan

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    48 Citations (Scopus)


    A detailed study of the morphology and micro-morphology of Quaternary alluvial calcrete profiles from the Sorbas Basin shows that calcretes may be morphologically simple of complex. The 'simple' profiles reflect pedogenesis occurring after alluvial terrace formation and consist of a single pedogenic horizon near the land surface. The 'complex' profiles reflect the occurrence of multiple calcrete events during terrace sediment aggradation and further periods of pedogenesis after terrace formation. These 'complex' calcrete profiles are consequently described as composite profiles. The exact morphology of the composite profiles depends upon: (1) the number of calcrete-forming events occurring during terrace sediment aggradation; (2) the amount of sediment accretion that occurs between each period of calcrete formation: and (3) the degree of pedogenesis after terrace formation. Simple calcrete profiles are most useful in establishing landform chronologies because they represent a single phase of pedogenesis after terrace formation. Composite profiles are more problematic. Pedogenic calcretes that form within them may inherit carbonate from calcrete horizons occurring lower down in the terrace sediments. In addition erosion may lead to the exhumation of older calcretes within the terrace sediment. Calcrete 'inheritance' may make pedogenic horizons appear more mature than they actually are and produce horizons containing carbonate embracing a range of ages. Calcrete exhumation exposes calcrete horizons whose morphology and radiometric ages are wholly unrelated to terrace surface age. Composite profiles are, therefore, only suitable for chronological studies if the pedogenic horizon capping the terrace sequence can be clearly distinguished from earlier calcrete-forming events. Thus, a detailed morphological/micro-morphological study is required before any chronological study is undertaken. This is the only way to establish whether particular calcrete profiles are suitable for dating purposes.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)169-185
    Number of pages17
    JournalEarth Surface Processes and Landforms
    Issue number2
    Early online date13 Jan 2003
    Publication statusPublished - 4 Feb 2003


    • Alluvial
    • Calcrete
    • Chronology
    • Quaternary
    • Terrace


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