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Historical Landscapes and Mans Influence on Soils - water meadows

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Introduction

Historical Landscapes and Mans Influence on Soils How does a Water Meadow work? By definition a water meadow is an area of pasture, near a river, which is deliberately flooded or 'drowned' to encourage the growth of grass or crops. This extracted water deposits any nutrients from the river in the land and so stimulating the growth of vegetation by increasing the fertility. In broad terms this enables the early production of animal fodder and an increased annual yield. The 'bedwork' for a water meadow is usually located on alluvial soils of the floodplain where water is directed from a main river, by a canal ('main carrier') through a series of weirs, hatches, or sluices which act as restraining structures. The rich sediment flow is then focused into narrowing channels that spill down the sides of specially constructed ridges. This system is a very complex method of increasing soil fertility in order to obtain more from an area of pasture, by both increasing the yield and by increasing the overall potential use of the land. A water meadow system is essentially driven by a small river or stream that is dammed by a sluice gate with water being drawn off into a main carrier. ...read more.

Middle

This exploitation prevents the soil becoming an amorphous soil by increasing pore volumes and fissure numbers, essentially creating a larger range of discrete macroaggregates. In addition to this the movement of water through the profile helps to flush out any toxins that may be present in the soil, diluting them and returning them to the river source. Wilting stress will also never be a problem in water meadow soil and so potentially increasing productivity as plenty of water will be available almost all of the year round. How did they act as frost protection? The constant movement of water through the rooting system warms them and so protecting them from early frosts. Also deeper soils prevented the affects of any possible frost action penetrating all the way through the rooting zone. Why didn't they become anaerobic? At no time in the normal course of running a meadow does it become flooded. The whole concept of this system is for the meadow to have a constant supply of water but in the form of a trickle of water flowing through the panes, bringing with it constantly aerated, oxygen filled water. So as the water is not actually standing in the soil profile it never actually becomes anaerobic. ...read more.

Conclusion

Site 2 Horizon name Description Horizon thickness (cm) Total Horizon Depth (cm) Oh Mostly reeds with some grass. 2 0-2 A This horizon was a 'very dark grey' colouration,10YR 3/1, and had a silt loam texture. 30 2-32 B1 The first B horizon changed texture from the A horizon to a clay loam and a 'black' 2.5Y 2/0 colouration 22 32-54 B2 The next horizon was a 'grey' 10YR 5/1 colour with clay loam texture. 38 54-92 B3 The final horizon changed to a sandy silt loam with a grey' 10YR 5/1 colouration. - 92+ The forth and fifth site were located further east of the other three sites and had very contrasting soil horizons: Site four was dry to a depth 30-40 cm, where at 40cm a layer of chalk was found. This band of chalk was 15cm thick and was identified as a foreign horizon, laid possibly as a road surface enabling the farmer to use heavy machinery. After penetrating the chalk seam the soil became much wetter and grey in colour. The final site, site five, had a very deep Oh horizon containing mostly reeds and some grass litter. The A horizon that followed was a uniform, very thick dark peat material with lots of organic material. This horizon was saturated at went to a depth of 1.10m+ ...read more.

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