Major Soil Types in the Southern Arctic

The Southern Arctic is actually an ecozone in Canada. This area falls between Ungava Bay in Quebec in the east and Richardson Mountains in the west. Divided in half by Hudson Bay, the Southern Arctic has the most vegetative cover of all arctic zones. Plants that grow in this zone include lichens, moss, heath as well as trees such as willow and dwarf birch. These plants grow in a wide range of soil.


Cryosol soils exist in the high latitudes of the arctic tundra. The soil surface extends downward for 3 feet. Below this soil surface is a layer of permafrost, which is soil that remains permanently frozen. Moss and lichen are the primary vegetation that grow on the tundra. The soil has a cracked, fissured or block-like appearance due to the constant freezing and thawing cycle. The active layer of topsoil is filled with organic material from dead plant life. This organic material helps to support the life of the lichens and moss.


Gleysol soils are permanently waterlogged or continually flooded from glacial meltwater and constant freezing and thawing. Gleysol topsoil is red from oxidation of iron in the soil. This soil is clay in texture and may extend down to a depth of 6 feet. Because the clay is constantly wet or waterlogged, it has a slippery texture. The subsoil is a grayish or bluish color. The soil texture of gleysols is spongy due its low-drainage quality.


Podzol is found under coniferous forests along the lower borders of the southern arctic region. The topsoil layer of a podzol is composed of poorly decomposed organic material. Below this is an ash-gray layer of subsoil bleached by organic acids that leach from organic material as it breaks down. Below the ash-gray subsoil is a layer of brown or black organic humus. These three soil layers extend into the soil only a shallow distance. Beneath them lies a subsoil of red oxidized clay.


Fluvisols are young soils created by alluvial deposits. Fluvisols occur on all continents, usually in flood plains or along streams, rivers and lakes where water breaks up rocks into smaller sediments or leaves marine deposits. In the southern arctic, fluvisols may be created by glacial deposits carried long distances and broken down by ice floes.

Keywords: Arctic soils, tundra soil, Canadian soil classifications

About this Author

Tracy S. Morris has been a freelance writer since 2000. She has published two novels and numerous online articles. Her work has appeared in national magazines and newspapers, including "Ferrets," "CatFancy," "Lexington Herald Leader" and "The Tulsa World."