Predictive biodynamic principles resolve two long-standing topographic-landform-soil issues; mima mounds and soil stone-layers

Donald L. Johnson, Diana N. Johnson, Jennifer L. Horwath Burnham, Hong Wang, Keith C. Hackley, Andrew J. Stumpf, Richard A. Cahill

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


A recent article in a prominent journal leads with the question: "Do biota affect landscape form and evolution?" Although that paper focused largely on the quantitative role of biota in mediating fluvial transport, the question posed has intriguing and wide implications. The search for topographical signatures of life is a theme that, until recently, has been surprisingly sparse in the broad arena of earth, biological, and environmental sciences. Recent research is advancing that integrative theme, with fruitful and useful discoveries being made. We summarize our research along these lines. We demonstrate how predictive biodynamic principles, with embedded biomantle and process vector elements, applied to field observations and laboratory data (particle size, pH, organic matter, C-14 measurements) reveal unequivocal topographic and soil-landform signatures of life. We demonstrate how this approach aids in resolving one long-standing, cross-disciplinary, extremely complex biodynamic issue--the origin of Mima (pimple-prairie) mounds. Our primary mound work was at Mima Prairie in Washington State, and Diamond Grove Prairie in Missouri. Supplemental investigations were made at various Mima moundfields across western North America over a multi-decadal timeframe. Moundfields were visited and revisited, examined and reexamined, some multiple times, in several cases annually and seasonally over many years. New moundfields were predictively discovered. The sum of our collective research indicates that while Mima mounds are inherently polygenetic in origin, like landforms in general, they are predominantly point-centered, locally thickened biomantles produced through the biodynamic activity of small vertebrates. The process mainly involves repeated biotransfers and biosortings by the supremely fossorial members of Geomyidae. (A synthesis of the Koons-Dalquest-Scheffer-Price-Cox model of burrowing by these animals is supported.) An unexpected bonus of our mound research was to shed bright confirmatory light on still another long-standing and equally contentious soil-geomorphic issue--the predominantly biodynamic origin of stone-layers (stone lines) in soils.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAbstracts with Programs - Geological Society of America
PublisherGeological Society of America (GSA), Boulder, CO, United States (USA)
ISBN (Print)0016-7592
StatePublished - 2008


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