Clay Chemistry’s Influence on the Average Carbon Content and Particle Size at the Ninety-Six Historical Site, South Carolina

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Lauren Lintz and Scott P Werts, Winthrop University, Rock Hill, SC, United States
The Ninety-Six National Historic Site is located in Greenwood County, SC.  Recent geologic mapping of this area has revealed differences in soil properties over short distances within the park. We studied the chemistry of the clay minerals found within the soils to see if there was a correlation between the amounts of soil organic carbon contained in the soil and particle size in individual soil horizons. Three different vegetation areas, including an old field, a deciduous forest, and a pine forest were selected to see what influence vegetation type had on the clay chemistry and carbon levels as well. Four samples containing the O, A, and B horizons were taken from each location and we studied the carbon and nitrogen content using an elemental analyzer, particle size using a Laser Diffraction Particle Size Analyzer, and clay mineralogy with powder X-ray diffraction of each soil sample. Samples from the old field and pine forest gave an overall negative correlation between carbon content and clay percentage, which is against the normal trend for Southern Piedmont Ultisols. The deciduous forest samples gave no correlation at all between its carbon content and clay percentage. Together, all three locations show the same negative relationship, while once separated into vegetation type and A and B horizons it shows even more abnormal relationships of negative while several show no correlation (R2= 0.007403- 0.56268). Using powder XRD, we ran clay samples from each A and B horizon for the clay mineralogy. All three vegetation areas had the same results of containing quartz, kaolinite, and Fe oxides, therefore, clay chemistry is not a reason behind the abnormal trend of a negative correlation between average carbon content and clay percentage. Considering that all three locations have the same climate, topography, and parent material of metagranite, it could be reasonable to assume these results are a factor of environmental and biological influences rather than clay type.