Geomorphological control on podzolisation – An example from a tropical barrier island

Pedro Martinez, Peter Buurman, Josiane Millani Lopes-Mazzetto, Paulo César Fonseca Giannini, Judith Schellekens, Pablo Vidal-Torrado*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


We investigated how the geomorphology of coastal barrier islands impacts soil hydrology and drainage at the landscape scale. Ilha Comprida is a Holocene barrier island with a 2.5 km-long cliff that is perpendicular to the coastal shore which provides an ideal condition to study the relation between age, relief, hydrology, and podzol morphology. Five geomorphic units were identified that differed in surface morphology and alignment of ridges and swales. Optical stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating showed that these geomorphic units had growth phases that decreased in age from west to east (Units I-V, from 5250 ± 820 to 325 ± 31 years ago, respectively). The geomorphic units were studied in two parallel 3 km transects on the southern part of the island. Along transect A-B, about 1 km from the southern shore, deep augerings were used to study sedimentary sequence and soil development, while on transect C-D on the southern shore, the continuous cliff exposure allowed more detailed morphological investigation. On all geomorphic units excluding the youngest, podzolisation has been the main soil-forming process. Groundwater level was monitored monthly for two years in 14 deep wells along transect A-B. Groundwater level during the formation of the B horizon was ascertained by determination of Fe. Podzol morphology (color of B horizon and its boundary with the E horizon) generally showed correlation to groundwater levels for both transects, except for the podzols in southwestern part of the island (Unit II). The podzols of Unit II showed an extremely thick (3 m) Bhm horizon devoid of Fe, indicating that they were formed under poor drainage conditions. However, soil morphology (undulating EB horizon boundary) and measured groundwater levels (below the B horizons) demonstrated that drainage has been improved. The extremely thick B horizon (3 m) in those podzols, which was formed in approximately 3000 years, and its genesis is explained by concentrated lateral flow of DOM-loaded groundwater due to the converging ridge alignments found in these units, in combination with a gradual uplift of the southwestern part of the island.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)86-97
Early online date4 Mar 2018
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2018


  • Hydrology
  • Ilha Comprida
  • Landscape evolution
  • Tropical Podzol


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