Reconstructing rates and patterns of colluvial soil redistribution in agrarian (hummocky) landscapes

Marijn van der Meij*, Tony Reimann, V.K. Vornehm, A.J.A.M. Temme, J. Wallinga, R. van Beek, M. Sommer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Humans have triggered or accelerated erosion processes since prehistoric times through agricultural practices. Optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) is widely used to quantify phases and rates of the corresponding landscape change, by measuring the last moment of daylight exposure of sediments. However, natural and anthropogenic mixing processes, such as bioturbation and tillage, complicate the use of OSL as grains of different depositional ages become mixed, and grains become exposed to light even long after the depositional event of interest. Instead, OSL determines the stabilization age, indicating when sediments were buried below the active mixing zone. These stabilization ages can cause systematic underestimation when calculating deposition rates. Our focus is on colluvial deposition in a kettle hole in the Uckermark region, northeastern Germany. We took 32 samples from five locations in the colluvium filling the kettle hole to study both spatial and temporal patterns in colluviation. We combined OSL dating with advanced age modelling to determine the stabilization age of colluvial sediments. These ages were combined with an archaeological reconstruction of historical ploughing depths to derive the levels of the soil surface at the moment of stabilization; the deposition depths, which were then used to calculate unbiased deposition rates. We identified two phases of colluvial deposition. The oldest deposits (~5 ka) were located at the fringe of the kettle hole and accumulated relatively slowly, whereas the youngest deposits (<0.3 ka) rapidly filled the central kettle hole with rates of two orders of magnitude higher. We suggest that the latter phase is related to artificial drainage, facilitating accessibility in the central depression for agricultural practices. Our results show the need for numerical dating techniques that take archaeological and soil‐geomorphological information into account to identify spatiotemporal patterns of landscape change, and to correctly interpret landscape dynamics in anthropogenically influenced hilly landscapes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2408-2422
JournalEarth Surface Processes and Landforms
Issue number12
Early online date25 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sept 2019


  • erosion
  • geochronology
  • hummocky
  • kettle hole
  • landscape evolution
  • OSL
  • tillage


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