Mineralogy and Geochemistry of Soils of Ultramafic Origin from the Great Dyke, Zimbabwe and Gillespie County, Texas
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Although soils developed from ultramafic parent materials have significance to agriculture, ecology and health, their bio-geochemistry is poorly understood. The mineralogical and bio-geochemistry of soils formed from the ultramafic parent materials of the Great Dyke, Zimbabwe and Gillespie County, Texas was investigated. The objectives were to determine the mineralogical and bio-geochemical properties of the soils in order to assess the potential impact and challenges to agriculture, and environmental quality. Soil samples were taken from the crest, shoulder, footslope and the toeslope. Chemical analyses were performed by nuclear and spectroscopic techniques. Mineral characterization was conducted by x-ray diffraction (XRD) and spectroscopic techniques. Microbial whole-community structure was determined by the fatty acid methyl esters (FAME) technique. The results indicate wide chemical and mineralogical compositions among the studied sites. The soils contain relatively high concentrations of heavy metals (some sites contain Cr(VI)), but low levels of K and Ca. The highest concentrations of trace metal were associated with chromite, Fe oxides and serpentinite. The concentrations of Mg were higher than those of Ca and varied between Zimbabwe and Texas soils largely due to the parent materials. Unique to these soils is the occurrence of talc, serpentine, chlorite, Fe-rich smectite, amphiboles, pyroxenes, Fe and Cr oxides in relatively large amounts. These soils also lack micas and have neglible amounts of kaolinite and feldspars. Palygorskite and serpentine occurred in specific soil horizons and at specific landscape positions. FAME profiles indicate that the soil microbial community structure is predominantly bacteria and fungi (including arbuscular mycorrhiza fungi) at each landscape position across the transect. Biomarkers for actinomycetes were undetectable. The proportions of Gram-positive bacteria were higher than those of the Gram-negative bacteria. Very low levels of nutrients (Ca and K), higher Mg/Ca molar ratios, and the relatively high concentrations of heavy metals in these soils impact agricultural productivity. High concentrations of heavy metals, the presence of the Cr(VI) as well as its great potential to form in these soils might impact microbial activity and environmental quality. The occurrence of fibrous minerals (e.g serpentine and amphiboles) in these soils will likely impact human health.
Bangira, Courage (2010). Mineralogy and Geochemistry of Soils of Ultramafic Origin from the Great Dyke, Zimbabwe and Gillespie County, Texas. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from