Soils in Canada

Canada's soil types are broken up into 10 orders according to the Canadian System of Soil Classification or CSSC. Primary in determining one order from another is examining differences in the soil's horizons. A horizon is defined as a layer of soil lying parallel to the surface, with multiple horizons making up a stratum. Horizons have marked beginning and endpoints, built up over time. Each is given a letter, starting with the surface horizon, which is called horizon A. The Gleysolic, Chernozemic, Luvisolic, Brunisolic and Regosolic orders possess different soil horizons.


Gleysolic orders are soils that were exposed to long-term saturation early in their genesis and were subsequently reduced of nutrient content, though not washed away. In order for them to have not washed away, an impermeable layer long since gone had to have been present. Gleysolic orders are found in lowland areas of Canada with high water tables such as the eastern provinces. They are characterized by reddish-tinged subsurface horizons with a distinct mottling caused by saturation. This mottling must comprise at least a 1 mm thickness in a 10 cm thick horizon, equating to 2 percent of the entire horizon.


Chernozemic order soils are found in transitional areas of vegetation running between grassland and cold-weather forests. These are found in the Interior Plains of western Canada as well as the slopes and valleys of the mountainous Cordilleran Region. Their average temperature is 0 degrees Celsius and they are imperfectly draining, resulting in vertically gray-streaked A and B horizons caused by trace accumulations of organic matter.


Luvisolic soils appear from the southern extremity of Ontario to British Columbia. They develop under mixed and deciduous forest conditions with cool to near-freezing climates. They are characterized by an eluvial A horizon, which is a horizon filled with surface matter drawn down by weathering and gravity, and B horizons composed primarily of silicate clay.


Regosolic soils are those orders which are too young to possess any distinguishing features. The materials they are composed of are too unstable to retain their position and crumble under pressure. They have no definable, or at the very most, weakly formed A and B horizons. Examples of Regosolic soils include quartz sand, volcanic sand or soft terrain found along the Canadian coastline.


Brunisolic orders are soils on the cusp of being included in another category. Their surface and subsurface horizons meet the required five centimeter thickness each, but have insufficient characteristics as far as content, coloring and striation patterns are concerned. This leaves them caught between the Regosolic order and the other eight defined orders. They occur under all Canada's known climactic and vegetative conditions and have a uniform brown color in the lower end of the B horizon.

Keywords: Canadian soil taxonomy, Canada's soils, Canada soil types

About this Author

John Albers is a 25 year old freelance writer with dual degrees from the University of Central Florida in English literature and psychology, and a goodly amount of experience in most fields besides. He's successfully published 800 online and printed articles of a technical nature, and fictional works with Bewildering Stories and Mindflights Magazine, though he's currently working on a debut novel.