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Geosciences 2018, 8(5), 146; https://doi.org/10.3390/geosciences8050146

Late Quaternary Soil Development Enhances Aeolian Landform Stability, Moenkopi Plateau, Southern Colorado Plateau, USA

1
The Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, Crested Butte, CO 81224, USA
2
Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, The University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131, USA
3
Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix, AZ 85008, USA
4
U.S. Geological Survey, Denver Federal Center, MS 974, Denver, CO 80225, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 30 March 2018 / Revised: 18 April 2018 / Accepted: 19 April 2018 / Published: 24 April 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Aeolian Processes and Geomorphology)
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Abstract

The Moenkopi dune field in northeastern Arizona covers roughly 1250 km2, but most of the field is inactive. Dune deposits on the Moenkopi Plateau (MP) have remained inactive throughout the Holocene despite periods of elevated aridity or historical reductions of vegetation cover by livestock grazing. We argue that this inactivity is not because of any diminishment of driving forces in the aeolian system (e.g., insufficient winds), but rather because of increased cohesion due to soil development that enhances resistance to wind erosion. Abundant aeolian sediments were supplied to the Black Mesa region by the Little Colorado River and its tributaries during the late Pleistocene (MIS 2 and 3), which enabled the development of climbing dunes and transport of sand over the Adeii Eechii Cliffs and onto the MP. These deposits (Qe1) stabilized during the Pleistocene/Holocene climatic transition (~12–7.5 ka) because of reduced sediment supply and high dust flux which resulted in rapid soil formation. Erosion of climbing dunes/sand ramps from the Adeii Eechii Cliffs eliminated delivery of large quantities of new sand to the MP during the mid to late Holocene. Soil development within the Qe1 mantle increased sediment cohesion and prevented widespread aeolian reactivation during the Holocene, despite the occurrence of conditions (wind speed, climate, etc.) under which dune reactivation would be expected. Drylands comprise roughly 40% of the land cover of earth and climate models predict their expansion. Pedogenic stability is not commonly considered in climate-based models used to predict aeolian activity. To improve predictions of future dune activity in drylands, the degree of soil development in aeolian deposits should be considered when evaluating sediment availability in aeolian systems. View Full-Text
Keywords: dune field morphodynamics; rapid soil development; Moenkopi Plateau; sand sheets; linear dunes; soil stratigraphy; soil geomorphology; buried soils; optically stimulated luminescence; radiation dosimetery dune field morphodynamics; rapid soil development; Moenkopi Plateau; sand sheets; linear dunes; soil stratigraphy; soil geomorphology; buried soils; optically stimulated luminescence; radiation dosimetery
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).
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Ellwein, A.L.; McFadden, L.D.; McAuliffe, J.A.; Mahan, S.A. Late Quaternary Soil Development Enhances Aeolian Landform Stability, Moenkopi Plateau, Southern Colorado Plateau, USA. Geosciences 2018, 8, 146.

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