How are soil scientists studying soils underwater?

Read the full post from the Soil Science Society of America.

Subaqueous soils are soils that are permanently under water. They are typically under only a few meters of water, but deeper areas are being explored as well. They contribute to healthy ecosystems in marshes and estuaries, as well as tidal basins and coastal areas.

Some underwater soils formed in upland environments. They were later “drowned” by rising sea levels, preserving bright colors and structure in the soil profile. Others formed under water in sediments. With the accumulation of organic matter and minerals like pyrite, they became soils. In either case, it is important to understand how subaqueous soils change across submerged landscapes. This understanding can lead us to best management practices. Ordinary upland soils are mapped and ranked in terms of their suitability to support food crops. Our lab at the University of Maryland is developing similar interpretations for subaqueous soils and how they can support oysters and other shellfish “crops” in Chesapeake Bay.

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