Publication details

Soil erosion rates during the Holocene continuity in a forest-steppe landscape



Year of publication 2023
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source Earth Surface Processes and Landforms
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Science

Keywords Be-10; Pu239+240; biodiversity; Holocene continuity; percolation; Romania; soil erosion
Description Despite a long-term human impact, Central and Eastern Europe exhibit patches of steppe ecosystems having the highest plant species diversity worldwide. These unique ecosystems have persisted over millennia even though the local climatic conditions would support the formation of a closed forest. Several sources of disturbances have contributed to the persistence of the forest-steppe landscape such as grazing, fire events and human impact. These disturbances have been recorded in local erosion rates. To gain a deeper understanding of the soil dynamics we aimed at deciphering the long- and short-term erosion rates and the age of the soil mantle. The steppes in Transylvania, Romania, were studied to find evidence of a Holocene continuity of grasslands. Long-term (millennia) average erosion rates were determined using meteoric Be-10 in soils and in situ Be-10 of rock outcrops (scarp). Long-term rates were also estimated by the percolation theory. Short-term (last few decades) erosion rates were obtained from Pu239+240 in soils. The soils started to form prior to the Last Glacial Maximum, probably during the Eemian Interglacial. The average, long-term erosion rates varied between 0.18 and 0.63 t ha(-1) yr(-1). These rates are slightly elevated compared to expected soil erosion rates. The soils of the Transylvanian Plain formed over a long period and reached a quasi-steady state (soil production equals denudation) that contributed to the maintenance of a biodiversity-rich forest-steppe landscape. The slightly elevated erosion rates are an effect of factors that contributed to the Holocene continuity (fire, grazing) and indicate open rather than a forested character of the landscape during soil development. During the last few decades, the erosion rates increased by a factor of 5-10, with values in the range of 1.31-4.05 t ha(-1) yr(-1). These large differences are caused by changes in human management of the soils. The biodiversity-rich forest-steppe landscapes are now under threat.

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