New European loess map

Nov 15, 2007
New European loess map
European Loess Map from 2007. Credit: Source: Dagmar Haase/UFZ

A new map showing the distribution of loess sediments in Europe has been published for the first time in 75 years, in digital format. With this map, Dagmar Haase, a geographer at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), has completed the work of various researchers who had begun as far back as the 1970s and 80s to revise the last comprehensive inventory produced by Rudolf Grahmann, which appeared in Mitteilungen der Gesellschaft für Erdkunde in Leipzig in 1932.

Haase and her colleagues have produced the new map with a scale of 1:2,500,000 with the help of modern digital information systems.

Whether they are lime-grey or dark black, loess sediments and the soils derived from them are of special importance for agriculture worldwide because they are some of the most fertile soils there are. In Germany, soil quality is given a rating using an index. The maximum value of 100 was attributed to the loess soil at Eickendorf in the Magdeburger Börde plains.

Loess sediments and their soils cover around one-tenth of the earth. In Europe, loess is a powdery product of glaciations during the Ice Age. During those cold periods, this very fine, light material was swept from bare regions on the edges of the glaciers and deposited in regions with denser vegetation. Loess consists largely of quartz grains and lime. The very fine grains ensure good aeration, water storage and mineral levels. This means that soils derived from loess are very fertile, like the black earth of the Börde plains, but are also particularly susceptible to erosion. It is therefore important to know where exactly these fertile soils so worthy of protection are to be found.

As far back as 1966 the then Loess Commission of the International Union for Quaternary Research (INQUA) decided to draw up a European loess map. Although this resulted in intensive research and new findings in various European countries, a new map for the whole of Europe was never produced and the already outdated map of 1932 remained the only standard work. In 2003, a group of Leipzig-based scientists resumed work on the European loess map, the plans for which had been developed in the 1980s. For this it was necessary to find standardised definitions for the various types of loess sediments.

The idea for the European loess map was born back in 1966. Over the following two decades the analogue dispersal data for loess and loess sediments throughout Europe were collated through collaboration between scientists in Eastern and Western Europe. After the fall of Communism in 1990, the project was put on hold for a few years because of the ‘restructuring’ in Central Eastern Europe. The rich fund of map material from all over Europe and the former Soviet Union that had been collected by about 2000 was then used at the UFZ to produce the European Loess Map 1:2,500,000 using modern GIS technology.

The new European Loess Map is a modern digital information system that links coordinates and factual information. It can be used all over the world and is already in high demand from all parts of the world. "We hope that with this fundamental work we have provided a basis for future landscape models that could help us to take timely action to combat the global problem of soil erosion," says Dagmar Haase. "Our data are also important for the reconstruction of climate history in Europe."

In total, loess soils cover around one fifth of Europe: especially in the Eastern European lowlands, in a belt north of the low mountain range, in the foothills of the Alps and the Danube basin and in various other river basins. The publication of the map in Quaternary Science Reviews marks the completion of a project on which geographers and soil scientists have been working for decades.

dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.quascirev.2007.02.003

Source: Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres

Explore further: Italy's first female astronaut heads to ISS in Russian craft

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Form Devices team designs Point as a house sitter

9 hours ago

A Scandinavian team "with an international outlook" and good eye for electronics, software and design aims to reach success with what they characterize as "a softer take" on home security. Their device is ...

Man pleads guilty in New York cybercrime case

12 hours ago

A California man has pleaded guilty in New York City for his role marketing malware that federal authorities say infected more than a half-million computers worldwide.

NASA issues 'remastered' view of Jupiter's moon Europa

21 hours ago

(Phys.org) —Scientists have produced a new version of what is perhaps NASA's best view of Jupiter's ice-covered moon, Europa. The mosaic of color images was obtained in the late 1990s by NASA's Galileo ...

Dish restores Turner channels to lineup

21 hours ago

Turner Broadcasting channels such as Cartoon Network and CNN are back on the Dish network after being dropped from the satellite TV provider's lineup during contract talks.

Recommended for you

Earth's orbit around the sun

39 minutes ago

Ever since the 16th century when Nicolaus Copernicus demonstrated that the Earth revolved around in the Sun, scientists have worked tirelessly to understand the relationship in mathematical terms. If this ...

CubeSat instruments to demonstrate NASA firsts

2 hours ago

The Dellingr six-unit CubeSat, which is taking its developers just one year to design, build and integrate, won't be the only potentially groundbreaking capability for NASA. Its heliophysics payloads also ...

Musk is testing x-wing style fins, spaceport drone ship

4 hours ago

(Phys.org) —Elon Musk over the weekend sent out a number of tweets about what's up at SpaceX in its rocket endeavors, talking about features that triggered a steady response stream of "Awesome," "Rad," ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.