GEMAS: Geochemical distribution of Mg in agricultural soil of Europe

The GEMAS Project Team, J. Hoogewerff

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10 Citations (Scopus)


Agricultural soil (Ap-horizon, 0–20 cm) samples were collected from 33 European countries as part of the GEMAS (GEochemical Mapping of Agricultural and grazing land Soil) soil-mapping project. The Mg data derived from total concentrations (XRF) and two acid digestion methods, aqua regia (AR) and Mobile Metal Ion (MMI®), were used to provide an overview of its spatial distribution in soil at the continental-scale. Magnesium is one of the most abundant elements in the Earth's crust and essential nutrient for plants and animals and its presence in soil is, therefore, important for soil quality evaluation. In this study, the geochemical behaviour of Mg in European agricultural soil was investigated in relation to a variety of soil parent materials, climatic zones, and landscapes. The chemical composition of soil reflects mostly the primary mineralogy of the source bedrock, and the superimposed effects of pre- and post-depositional chemical weathering, controlled by element mobility and formation of secondary phases such as clays. Low Mg concentrations in agricultural soil occur in regions with quartz-rich glacial sediments (Poland, Baltic States, N. Germany), and in soil developed on quartz-rich sandstone parent materials (e.g., central Sweden). High Mg concentrations occur in soil developed over mafic lithologies such as ophiolite belts and in carbonate-rich regions, including karst areas. The maximum extent of the last glaciation is well defined by a Mg concentration break, which is marked by low Mg concentrations in Fennoscandia and north-central Europe, and high Mg concentrations in Mediterranean region. Lithology of parent materials seems to play a key role in the Mg nutritional status of agricultural soil at the European scale. Influence from agricultural practice and use of fertilisers appears to be subordinate. Comparison of the continental-scale spatial distribution of Mg in agricultural soil by using the results from three analytical methods (XRF, AR and MMI®) provides complementary information about Mg mobility and its residence time in soil. Thus, allowing evaluation of soil weathering grade and impact of land use exploitation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106706
Pages (from-to)1-44
Number of pages44
JournalJournal of Geochemical Exploration
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021


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