Impact of human land use on soils and landforms in cultural landscapes on aeolian sandy substrates (Maashorst, SE-Netherlands)

J.M. van Mourik*, A.C. Seijmonsbergen, R.T. Slotboom, J. Wallinga

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Pollen analysis, soil micromorphology and radiocarbon dating have been the main scientific tools to unlock palaeoecological information from palaeosols during the past decades. In recent years, the application of optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating on polycyclic driftsand profiles and plaggic deposits has been shown to be of great added value to understand the geochronology of the evolution of soils and landforms on sandy substrates. This paper presents the reconstruction of the evolution of cultural soils and landforms in the study area Maashorst (southern Netherlands), which is part of an extensive region in Northwestern Europe underlain by predominantly Late Glacial aeolian coversand deposits. Deforestation and soils acidification, related to human land use, started before 1750 BC. Based on radiocarbon dating, sedentary agriculture already started around 1000 BC, but OSL dates indicate that the accumulation of plaggic deposits did not start before the Late Middle Ages. The reconstructed evolution of cultural soils and landforms is based on information of scattered palaeosols, interpolated and extrapolated to a sequence of (palaeo) soil maps. Palaeopedological information is not included in regular soil maps because soil classifications are based on the diagnostic properties of actual soils and normally neglect relicts of preliminary steps in soil development. This is convenient for agricultural applications, but such soil maps are less useful for the presentation of long term soil development or as abiotical base for designs for restoration ecology. The results of this study include interpretive maps produced in a geographical information system of the soil patterns around 1500 AD and 2000 BC, based on the present soil map and the reconstruction of palaeoecological development during the Late Holocene. The time sequence of these historical interpretive soil maps reflects the impact of human land use on soils and landforms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)74-89
Number of pages16
JournalQuaternary International
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jun 2012
Externally publishedYes


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