Earth Science Frontiers ›› 2012, Vol. 19 ›› Issue (3): 19-32.

• Article • Previous Articles     Next Articles

History and Progress of the North American Soil Geochemical Landscapes Project, 2001-2010

David B.Smith, William F.Cannon, Laurel G.Woodruff, Francisco Moreira Rivera Andrew N.Rencz, Robert G.Garrett   

  1. aUS Geological Survey, MS 973, Denver, CO 80225, USA bUS Geological Survey, MS 954, Reston, VA 20192, USA cUS Geological Survey, 2280 Woodale Drive, St. Paul, MN 55112, USA dServicio Geológico Mexicano, 78280 San Luis Potosí, S.L.P., Mexico eGeological Survey of Canada, Natural Resources Canada, 601 Booth St., Ottawa, ON, Canada, K1A 0E8
  • Received:2011-09-28 Revised:2012-01-31 Online:2012-05-25 Published:2012-05-25


In 2007, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Geological Survey of Canada, and the Mexican Geological Survey initiated a lowdensity (1 site per 1600 km2, 13323 sites) geochemical and mineralogical survey of North American soils (North American Soil Geochemical Landscapes Project). Sampling and analytical protocols were developed at a series of workshops in 20032004 and pilot studies were conducted from 20042007. The ideal sampling protocol at each site includes a sample from 05 cm depth, a composite of the soil A horizon, and a sample from the soil C horizon. The <2mm fraction of each sample is analyzed for Al, Ca, Fe, K, Mg, Na, S, Ti, Ag, Ba, Be, Bi, Cd, Ce, Co, Cr, Cs, Cu, Ga, In, La, Li, Mn, Mo, Nb, Ni, P, Pb, Rb, Sb, Sc, Sn, Sr, Te, Th, Tl, U, V, W, Y, and Zn by inductively coupled plasmamass spectrometry and inductively coupled plasmaatomic emission spectrometry following a neartotal digestion in a mixture of HCl, HNO3, HClO4, and HF. Separate methods are used for As, Hg, Se, and total C on this same size fraction. The major mineralogical components are determined by a quantitative Xray diffraction method. Sampling in the conterminous U.S. was completed in 2010 (c. 4800 sites) with chemical and mineralogical analysis currently underway. In Mexico, approximately 66% of the sampling (871 sites) had been done by the end of 2010 with completion expected in 2012. After completing sampling in the Maritime provinces and portions of other provinces (472 sites, 7.6% of the total), Canada withdrew from the project in 2010.  Preliminary results for a swath from the central U.S. to Florida clearly show the effects of soil parent material and climate on the chemical and mineralogical composition of soils. A sample archive will be established and made available for future investigations.

Key words: Soil, Geochemical baselines, North America, Continental scale