Soil magnetic susceptibility: A quantitative proxy of soil drainage for use in ecological restoration

David A. Grimley, Jing Shu Wang, Derek A. Liebert, Jeffrey O. Dawson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Flooded, saturated, or poorly drained soils are commonly anaerobic, leading to microbially induced magnetite/maghemite dissolution and decreased soil magnetic susceptibility (MS). Thus, MS is considerably higher in well-drained soils (MS typically 40-80 × 10-5 standard international [SI]) compared to poorly drained soils (MS typically 10-25 × 10-5 SI) in Illinois, other soil-forming factors being equal. Following calibration to standard soil probings, MS values can be used to rapidly and precisely delineate hydric from nonhydric soils in areas with relatively uniform parent material. Furthermore, soil MS has a moderate to strong association with individual tree species' distribution across soil moisture regimes, correlating inversely with independently reported rankings of a tree species' flood tolerance. Soil MS mapping can thus provide a simple, rapid, and quantitative means for precisely guiding reforestation with respect to plant species' adaptations to soil drainage classes. For instance, in native woodlands of east-central Illinois, Quercus alba , Prunus serotina, and Liriodendron tulipifera predominantly occur in moderately well-drained soils (MS 40-60 × 10-5 SI), whereas Acer saccharinum, Carya laciniosa, and Fraxinus pennsylvanica predominantly occur in poorly drained soils (MS <20 × 10-5 SI). Using a similar method, an MS contour map was used to guide restoration of mesic, wet mesic, and wet prairie species to pre-settlement distributions at Meadowbrook Park (Urbana, IL, U.S.A.). Through use of soil MS maps calibrated to soil drainage class and native vegetation occurrence, restoration efforts can be conducted more successfully and species distributions more accurately reconstructed at the microecosystem level.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)657-667
Number of pages11
JournalRestoration Ecology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2008


  • Hydric soils
  • Magnetic susceptibility
  • Plant adaptations
  • Restoration
  • Soil drainage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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