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Rock Street, San Francisco

The first site, Hunters Hill is a woodland area, located on the top of a hill elevated at 125 – 240 meters above sea level. This altitude means that the soils microclimate will be much cooler than the other lowland sites and so will receive less weathering, mainly by chemical and biological means, of parent material. There will be increased moisture content due to the extra rainfall this area will receive and mist (due to the potential for dew point to be reached at such altitudes). This site is very likely not to receive up-welling water from the ground water reserves due to its sheer distance from it and so it is not a gleyed soil.

Also through-flow movements downslope will be much higher here, resulting in an enhanced rate of lateral translocation of solutes and suspended material, again giving a possible reason for the soil profile’s colour. The dense woodland of Scott’s pine trees curb wind velocities, slowing air movements raising air masses and intensifying upward wind currents and so increase the condensation of water vapour, creating ideal moist conditions for soil bacteria such as decomposers and nitrogen-fixing bacterium, that could produce acidic excrement which could weather rock fragments present in the soil.

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However as there is little variation in the prevalent species of fauna, i. e. pine trees, it will take the decomposes many years before they can act on the fallen leaf litter, giving the soil the essential nutrients it needs as these pine needles take years to break down. The soil profile is also deprived from much stored water as it is freely drained, especially due to the extensive network of root channels and those made by earth worms and other soil fauna associated with such a densely vegetated area.

There is also a very high and well-established upper canopy layer and so direct isolation levels are much lower and scattered radiation much higher. This will increase air temperatures, as plants and other fauna release heat into the atmosphere, favouring once again conditions for soil bacterium to establish, replenishing the soil with nutrients, present in the lower layers of the soil profile – B horizon.

So the altered site conditions by the vegetation to the sites microclimate increases the likelihood of soil bacteria colonising in the O layer, therefore increasing the amount of humic acid present in the soil, and therefore increasing the weathering process of chelation. Whereby the ‘removal of metal ions, in particular from Aluminium, Iron and Manganese, from solids by binding with such organic acids,’ forming organic matter-metal complexes. The chelation agents are simply the decomposition products of plants and can be seen in the B horizon with a reddish brown sandy loam.

(Not the A horizon due to increased through-flow and root canals in that layer. ) The second site is a lowland site that is situated South West of the Mill of Kincardine on the flood plain of a river, a local drainage ditch. Here the topography again plays a key role in determining the site soil profile. In the bottom of a small valley (60 meters above sea level) this site has no slope angles, as the flood plain is flat. The surrounding landscape however is gently sloping towards this site (see photo) and to the North West is the steep vegetated slopes of Hunters Hill.

In this lowland site there is only a short distance to travel before the water table is reached and so will experience the up-welling of water from the high ground water in the wet seasons and surplus overland and through-flow water form the surrounding landscape and when the river inundates it’s flood plain. This constant or at least seasonal presence of water has a weighty impact upon the soil characteristics. The result of this is that the near-by ground becomes saturated, reducing the capability of water to filter into the ground by infiltration and subsequent parent rock, percolation, increasing surface water runoff.

This over saturation of soils due to the lower elevation and therefore subsequent close proximity to the water table and so the soil type is that of gleys. This low terrain site could either be termed as young alluvial ‘fluvisols’ showing signs of recent inundation of water from the river producing the gleyed conditions, resulting in sedimentation or non-stratified ‘gleysols’ which show no signs of recent sedimentation due to sever water logged soils. The former I think is more applicable to this site but further soil analysis would be required to be certain.

Perhaps if this site was examined in the winter/late spring, when perhaps the water table had been lower the sites could be termed fluvisols. The gradient of the Hunters Hill slope could have had an effect with the same result as mentioned above, with this site exhibiting gleyic properties. The B Horizon shows a distinctive gleyed soil resulting from gleizaion that is manifested by the presence of grey or bluish colours through the soil matrix or in mottles among other colours.

These large fluctuations in ground water table results in most movement of water being lateral, which brings with it oxygen, therefore reducing certain bands on a soil horizon (Pans visible Grey White band – Reduced Iron in a band across the profile) The presence of some nearby vegetation will evaporate and absorb some of the excess water in the local system and intercept some of the rainfall resulting in a lesser amount of excess surface run-off.


The land use potential of this site is that of improved pasture and ; ley grass but not suitable for building upon due to close proximity to a river which can be liable to flood nor is it suitable for intensive arable farming due to the poor soil structure. Site 3 Site 3, the agricultural site Fountainhead is situated NNE of Home Farm on a gently sloping SE incline west of Hunters Hill. On a convex lower slope (4 degrees) the predominate land use is that of arable and ley grass, as the category suggests, and is at an elevation of 120-145m above sea level.

This site has characteristics similar to that of site 1 at Hunters Hill except that here the slope is gentler and the vegetation here is that of ley grass, and so has a very similar soil profile. Again such altitudes means that the soils microclimate will be much cooler and so will receive less weathering of parent material and the increased moisture content will be utilized by soil bacterium. Here it is very important for these conditions to exist if the success of plant growth is directly coupled with that of economic success.

The advantageous environment for soil bacteria to live can greatly aid the growth of crops and potentially reduce to amount of fertilisers needed. If conditions are right then nitrogen fixing bacteria, such as nitrosommonas or nitrobacter, will colonise giving the plant a plentiful supply of free nitrates. This is reflected by the thriving O horizon. Due the presence of vegetation there will always be a source of decaying biological matter, be it from dead plants or dead animals living in the woodland area, providing the soil with plenty of nutrients.

The mineral topsoil A horizon is thick because of the accumulation of organic substances and loss of mineral substances such as small clay deposits, humic materials, iron oxides and aluminium oxides. Due to the high amount of initial detritus in the ‘O’ horizon the ‘A’ horizon reflects this as the organic matter moves down through the soil by translocation and movement in suspension by water.

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