Soil formation, or pedogenesis, is the combined effect of physical, chemical, biological and anthropogenic processes on soil parent material. Soil is said to be formed when organic matter has accumulated and colloids washed downward, leaving deposits of clay, humus, iron oxide, carbonate, and gypsum. As a result, horizons form in the soil profile. These constituents are moved (translocated) from one level to another by water and animal activity. The alteration and movement of materials within a soil causes the formation of distinctive soil horizons. How soil formation proceeds is influenced by at least five classic factors that are intertwined in the evolution of a soil. They are: parent material, climate, topography (relief), organisms, and time. When reordered to climate, relief, organisms, parent material, and time, they form the acronym CROPT.
An example of the development of a soil would begin with the weathering of lava flow bedrock, which would produce the purely mineral-based parent material from which the soil forms. Soil development would proceed most rapidly from bare rock of recent flows in a warm climate, under heavy and frequent rainfall. Under such conditions, plants become established very quickly on basaltic lava, even though there is very little organic material. The plants are supported by the porous rock as it is filled with nutrient-bearing water that carries dissolved minerals from rocks and guano. Crevasses and pockets, local topography of the rocks, would hold fine materials and harbour plant roots. The developing plant roots are associated with mycorrhizal fungi that assist in breaking up the porous lava, and by these means organic matter and a finer mineral soil accumulate with time.
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