Environmental Magnetic Properties of Lateritic Soils from Southwestern India

K. Amrutha, Anish Kumar Warrier, K. Sandeep, Arya Jyothinath, A. L. Ananthapadmanabha, R. Shankar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Abstract: Soil formation is influenced mainly by lithology, climate, organic matter, vegetation, topography, and time. Soil-forming processes have been well studied in temperate regions. However, there is little data on such processes in the tropics. In this work, we have studied the environmental magnetic properties of lateritic soils developed on gneiss and charnockite. We sampled surficial soils from different environmental settings (urban, agricultural, pristine, and gleyed) to determine the processes involved in their formation. A range of environmental magnetic parameters and inter-parametric ratios were investigated to determine the magnetic concentration, grain-size and mineralogy of the soil samples. Redness rating (RR) index was also calculated to estimate the reddening of tropical soils and to examine its relationship with magnetic properties. The pristine soils exhibit the highest average value for χlf and a higher value of χfd%, indicating a greater amount of ultra-fine magnetic minerals. The gleyed and agricultural soils are weakly magnetic, probably be due to waterlogging, and are characterized by a coarser magnetic grain size. A high proportion of “soft” ferrimagnetic minerals like magnetite and titanomagnetite is present in the samples (average S-ratio ~ 0.90). Hematite content is the highest in unburnt soils and the least in gleyed soils (unburnt > burnt > pristine > urban > agricultural > gleyed). The high concentration of hematite in these soils could be due to transformation of maghemite, resulting from low-temperature oxidation of magnetite. We documented a distinction between the magnetic properties of burnt and unburnt soil types as fire can significantly enhance the magnetic values of unburnt soils. The concentration of hematite (indicated by HIRM) and redness rating (RR) index are fairly well correlated for all the sample types with the exception of urban (r = 0.51; p = 0.11; n = 11) and unburnt soils (r = 0.60; p = 0.28; n = 5), which show a strong correlation. Therefore, RR index can be effectively used as an indicator of reddening of tropical soils due to pedogenesis. This study demonstrates that environmental magnetism can aid in differentiating the diverse environments of soils even though they developed on a similar rock type and under similar climatic conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)238-248
Number of pages11
JournalEurasian Soil Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 02-2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Soil Science
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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