Black Earth: Chernozem


Mainstream Earth Scientists are befuddled by Black Earth and happily spread their confusion around [by the bucketful] when they conflate different varieties of Black Earth.

For example:

When Wikipedia is waffling about the layer of Dark Earth covering the ruins of Roman Europe they implicitly misdirect the reader by implying Dark Earth is a European version of the fertile Terra Preta [black soil] found in the Amazon Basin.

Dark earth in archaeology is an archaeological horizon, as much as 1 m (2 – 3 ft) thick, indicating settlement over long periods of time.

The material is high in organic matter, including charcoal, which gives it its characteristic dark colour; it may also contain fragments of pottery, tile, animal bone and other artefacts.

It is interpreted as soil enriched with the sooty remains of thatched roofs from houses without chimneys, with other waste materials.

In some areas it appears to give the soil added fertility.

Wikipedia adds to the confusion by withholding details and photographs of Dark Earth.

But when the photographic evidence is available then it’s immediately evident European urban Dark Earth isn’t Amazonian Terra Preta.

Milk Street



For example:

When Wikipedia is waffling about black earth “confusion” they are explicitly misdirecting the reader by differentiating between Dark Earth and Chernozem Black Soils.

London’s dark earth was originally called ‘black earth’ by archaeologists.

It was renamed dark earth because of confusion with the chernozem (black earth soils in Russia; in these, the dark colour is traditionally (not universally) thought to come from humus, rather than soot).

Chernozem is a black-coloured soil containing a high percentage of humus (7% to 15%), and high percentages of phosphoric acids, phosphorus and ammonia.[citation needed]

Chernozem is very fertile and produces a high agricultural yield.

Again, when the photographic evidence is available, it’s evident the only differences between 7 hectares of Dark Earth and 7 hectares of Chernozem Black Soils is the higher concentration of human settlement triage found in Dark Earth.

Dark earth over 7 hectares has been found in the Viking city of Björkö (today called Birka), in central Sweden, close to modern Stockholm.

The construction technique of the buildings is still unknown, but the main material was wood.

Viking Age Birka

Chernozem - Germany

The mainstream has a long and glorious history of explaining away Chernozem Black Soils.

Chernozem is a black-coloured soil containing a high percentage of humus (7% to 15%), and high percentages of phosphoric acids, phosphorus and ammonia.

Lüningsburg in Lower Saxony, Germany

Theories of chernozem origin:

1761 – Johan Gottschalk Wallerius (plant decomposition)
1763 – Mikhail Lomonosov (plant and animal decomposition)
1799 – Peter Simon Pallas (reeds marsh)
1835 – Charles Lyell (loess)
1840 – Sir Roderick Murchison (weathered from Jurassic marine shales)
1850 – Karl Eichwald (peat)
1851 – А. Petzgold (swamps)
1852 – Nikifor Borisyak (peat)
1853 – Vangengeim von Qualen (silt from northern swamps)
1862 – Rudolf Ludwig (bog on place of forests)
1866 – Franz Josef Ruprecht (decomposed steppe grasses)
1879 – First chernozem papers translated from Russian
1883 – Vasily Dokuchaev published book “Russian Chernozem” with complete study of this
soil in European part of Russia.
1929 – Otto Schlüter (man-made)
1999 – Michael W.I Schmidt (ancient biomass burning)

FAO-EC-ISRIC, 2003. World Soil Resources Map

However, after all these years, they still don’t understand Chernozem Black Soils.

In this review we compile the most important literature on pedogenesis of Central European Chernozems since the 1920s, according to the soil forming factors climate, time, vegetation, relief and man.

Our review demonstrates that there is no consensus on the factors controlling the formation, conservation and degradation of Central European Chernozems in published literature.

We found that
(1) no absolute time of formation could be stated so far, and that
(2) Central European Chernozems formed not only under steppe but also under forest vegetation;
(3) the spatial distribution of Chernozems and Phaeozems did not correlate with climate conditions or topographic position, and
(4) until now no other factors were considered to be responsible for Chernozem development.

Recent studies showed that these unknown factors could include anthropogenic activity and vegetation burning as they could form black soils or strongly affect the composition of soil organic matter.

We concluded that not all soils classified as Chernozems in Central Europe are steppe soils and thus, as they do not necessarily reflect past climate, the classification may be misleading.

Pedogenesis of Chernozems in Central Europe — A Review
Eileen Eckmeier, Renate Gerlach, Ernst Gehrt, Michael W.I. Schmidt
Geoderma 139 (2007) 288 – 299

Click to access Eckmeier_Geoderma_2007.pdf

Nonetheless, some very brave researchers have managed to establish the presence of “submicron remnants of burned biomass” in European Chernozem Black Soils.

Here, using high-resolution transmission electron microscopy, electron energy loss spectroscopy, micro Raman spectroscopy and radiocarbon dating, we characterized the nanomorphology and chemical structure of soil organic carbon (SOC) from central European chernozems.

We identified submicron remnants of burned biomass (15–45 percent of SOC), coexisting as amorphous char-black carbon (BC) derived from pyrolized cellulose or soot-BC.

The BC was several millenia in age (1160–5040 carbon-14 years) and up to 3990 radiocarbon years older than bulk SOC, indicating significant residence times for BC in soils.

These results challenge common paradigms on chernozem formation and add fire as an important novel factor.

It is also clear that the role of fire in soil formation has been underestimated outside classical fire prone biomes.

Furthermore, our results demonstrate the importance of quantifying BC in soils because of its large contribution, longevity and potential role in the global biogeochemical carbon cycle.

Carbon Isotope Geochemistry and Nanomorphology of Soil Black Carbon:
Black Chernozemic Soils in Central Europe Originate From Ancient Biomass Burning
Michael W. I. Schmidt, Jan O. Skjemstad and Cornelia Jäger
Global Biogeochemical Cycles – Volume 16 – Issue 4 – December 2002

But only time will tell if there are any researchers brave enough to test the other black soils [spread across the World] for “submicron remnants of burned biomass”.

English Black Soils

And only time will tell whether mainstream researchers are capable of recognising the pattern formed by Chernozem Black Soils in the Northern Hemisphere.

Soil map prepared by Dokuchaev for the World Exhibition in Paris in 1900

Soil map of the Northern Hemisphere (Dokoutchaev, 1899) prepared by Dokuchaev for the World Exhibition in Paris in 1900.

Soil Maps of the World
Alfred E. Hartemink, Pavel Krasilnikov, J.G. Bockheim
Geoderma 207–208 (2013) 256–267

Click to access 2013%20-%20Soil%20maps%20of%20the%20world%20%28Hartemink,%20Krasilnikov,%20Bockheim%29.pdf

Black soil carbon

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