Re: coal again!

Bill Payne (
Wed, 14 Apr 1999 23:05:00 -0600

On Tue, 13 Apr 1999 22:22:10 -0500 (Keith B Miller)

>You are trying to apply my comments in a different context than that in
>which they were given.

Sorry, I'm not trying to trap you, but I am trying very hard to

>Rooting is not
>the basis for recognizing soils. Saturated or gleyed soils can be
>recognized by diagnostic microstructural features which you refuse to
>consider. Many (most?) underclays are soils.

Could you please list the diagnostic microstructural features for me, or
provide a reference?

>The absence of "intensely rooted soils" with well-developed soil
>does not imply that roots do not occur. Roots _are_ difficult to
>within any soil profile. Typically, unless there is mineral
>in association with the roots, which results in nodules or
>any permanent record of most rooting is destroyed. The preservation we
>commonly see is from the last generation of plants living on the land
>surface before it is buried or flooded.

Bob Gastaldo (personal communication) told me, when I had said that I
didn't see roots beneath coals, that he could show me roots every time.
Now I have learned to recognize the roots he was talking about, which are
actually fine rootlets, not the larger Stigmarian axial systems I was
looking for. Are you suggesting that the larger axial root is destroyed
but the fine rootlets are preserved? Or, are you suggesting that the
axial roots from the in situ coal swamp trees never penetrated the
underlying soil?

>In the case of paleosols
>underlying coals, the connection between the conditions during soil
>formation (and the plants rooted in that soil) with the overlying coal
>not at all obvious. There are some clear cases where the paleosols
>underlying the coals were formed under very different conditions than
>coals. The base of the coal is essentially an unconformity.

The base of the coal is essentially an unconformity? Are you then saying
that the coal swamp had essentially no connection with the underlying
soil? If so, can you offer a modern analog where trees with stumps 2
feet in diameter and trunks in excess of 50 feet tall have no roots in
the underlying soil? If not, then the swamp flora rooted deeply into the
saturated soils (as we observe with trees growing in swamps today), and
we are back to the question of what happened to the roots. If they did
in fact at one time intensely penetrate the soil, then they would have
destroyed the microsturcture of the soil. Destroying the roots would not
restore the microstructure (your "diagnostic microstructural features"
and "well-developed soil structure") into continuous, fine interbeds
which I have observed, would it? Is there a way to create these
continuous, fine interbeds, which look like sedimentary features, from a
homogenous soil as roots are destroyed?


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