Characterizing soils via portable x-ray fluorescence spectrometer: 2. Spodic and Albic horizons

David C. Weindorf, Yuanda Zhu, Paul McDaniel, Mitchell Valerio, Lorene Lynn, Gary Michaelson, Mark Clark, Chien Lu Ping

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


Differentiation of horizons in soils formed in volcanic ash can be problematic as recent ash deposits often have the same morphological appearance as eluvial albic horizons. Furthermore, differentiation of spodic horizons can be difficult as multiple horizons can appear homogeneous. A portable x-ray fluorescence (PXRF) spectrometer was utilized to scan volcanic ash-derived Spodosols, Andisols, and Inceptisols in northern Idaho and southern Alaska. Distinct patterns of elemental concentrations were identified in soil profiles. These data can be used to quantitatively differentiate seemingly nondescript horizons. Organic carbon variability within soil profiles was found to significantly correlate to elemental concentrations as evidenced by strong regression r 2 and low root mean squared errors (RMSEs). Specifically, Fe/Zr ratios proved useful for documenting spodic horizons in the studied profiles, and showed some potential for differentiating volcanic ash from true E horizons. In areas of frequent saturation or inundation, the PXRF also demonstrated the ability to distinguish depleted soil matrix materials from reduced Fe. Summarily, the PXRF proved to be a useful instrument for rapid, on-site analysis of volcanic ash soils.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)268-277
Number of pages10
StatePublished - Nov 2012


  • Iron
  • Portable x-ray fluorescence spectrometry
  • Spodosols
  • Volcanic ash


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