Potential terrain controls on soil color, texture contrast and grain-size deposition for the original catena landscape in Uganda

David J. Brown, Murray K. Clayton, Kevin McSweeney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Inspired by the catena concept, we returned to the landscape of origin for this idea in central Uganda and applied quantitative soil-landscape-modeling techniques to the study of soil formation. In particular, we employed Generalized Least Squares (GLS) regression to identify potential terrain (and other) controls on surface texture with the goal of explaining texture contrast formation for well-drained red soils, and fluvial deposition for yellow-gray lowland soils. Well-drained red soils and poorly drained yellow-gray soils were identified using a high-resolution spectroradiometer and soil redness was highly correlated with a measure of elevation above the valley floor. For the yellow-gray soils, sand content and sand grain size increased with greater slope gradient and in converging areas - evidence supporting fluvial control of surface soil composition. For red soils, texture contrast increased on lower backslopes, decreased over ferricrete-rich parent material, and had no significant association with either infiltration- or runoff-influenced locations. Surprisingly, texture contrast was also reduced or even inverted on fine scale convexities (<18 m in diameter). These findings were consistent with the following theoretical processes: (1) sand deposition on lower-backslopes, increasing texture contrast; (2) ferricrete weathering at the soil surface, reducing texture contrast; and (3) texture contrast inversion through termite turbation. A number of techniques proved useful in this study: (a) the use of GLS regression supported the interpretation of model coefficients in an explicitly spatial context; (b) thin-plate splines provided a flexible means of controlling the spatial scale of terrain index computation; and (c) the development of a new downslope-looking Elevation Above Stream (EASy) terrain index provided a powerful tool for the identification of poorly drained soils - a tool that could have applications in a variety of landscapes and environments. Overall, we found that the catena concept as a soil-terrain-modeling approach worked best on lower, less well-drained, depositional landscape components. For the well-drained portion of this landscape, there was little evidence to suggest that soil formation was controlled by hillslope hydrology as proposed by the catena concept. The catena concept interpreted in a broad sense challenges pedologists to explicitly link soil geographic patterns with specific soil forming processes and environmental controls - an approach that proved valuable in this study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)51-72
Number of pages22
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Dambo
  • Digital terrain modeling
  • GLS regression
  • Soil-landscape modeling
  • Spatial statistics
  • Texture contrast

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Potential terrain controls on soil color, texture contrast and grain-size deposition for the original catena landscape in Uganda'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this