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Types of Soil in the Ocean – Characteristics

by Fitriani

The ocean is made up of many things. There are many marine animals, plants, organisms and water that make up the most of its body. But there is also another part of the ocean that is also very crucial in the components which is the ocean soil.

The ocean soil is basically the ocean floor that contains numerous mountains, plains, valleys, islands, volcanoes and ridges. Other than that, the ocean soil is made up of many materials that either come from the land or within those living inside the water.

Typically, there are 3 types of ocean soil which are namely Calcareous Ooze, Red Clay and Siliceous Ooze. These soils form as a result of weathering and erosion from various continents, materials from extraterrestrial objects such as meteors and asteroids, biological activity, chemical processes that occur inside the ocean water and occurrence of volcanic eruptions. Below are detailed information on the 3 Types of Ocean Soil. Read on to know more about how these soils are form and the materials they consist.

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1. Calcareous Ooze

The ooze we are talking about here is ooze that builds up from organisms living in the ocean. They are also called organic debris. When these organic debris make up 30% of the soil than the soil can be classified as ooze. Out of the three types of soil in the oceans, the Calcareous Ooze is the most common and widespread one. It is so common that it reportedly makes up 48% of the floor in the oceans. The Calcareous Ooze begins to cover of the ocean floor 160 kilometres off the shore. Moreover, it only exists where the water depth is at the maximum of 3500 metres.

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Areas with warm waters are generally where a lot of the Calcareous Ooze can be found. In general, it is made up of many remains or skeletons of organisms in the ocean where their calcium carbonate skeletons decay. These dead organisms include those such as the pteropods (sea snails or sea slugs), coccolithophores (phytoplanktons) and foraminifera shells.

The Calcareous Ooze is furthermore divided into two types, the Globigerina Ooze and the Pteropod Ooze. What makes them different is mainly in their compositions, the organic remains that are left in the ooze.

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The Globigerina Ooze is common in the Indian, Atlantic and South Pacific oceans. It has been in existence ever since the Middle Jurassic period. The colour of the Globigerina Ooze is white. This soft ocean sediment is hugely made up by the remains of planktonic foraminifera shells. Meanwhile the Pteropod Ooze only exist in the mid-Atlantic waters. The dominant remains in the Pteropod Ooze are sea mollusks who usually live in the deep parts of the sea.

As the biggest marine sediments that cover the ocean floor of the world, the Calcareous Ooze has a major role in helping scientists and researchers. It serves as a record of the past. It tells how the conditions and the environments were on Earth thousands of years ago since it contains many informations on the Earth’s hydrosphere, biosphere and also the atmosphere. Additionally, the Calcareous Ooze can also give information on the land of Earth’s continents. The sediments are able to tell the kind of climate and vegetation on certain areas of Earth back then.

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2. Red Clay

Another type of the ocean soil is called the Red Clay. As for the clay, the materials that it consists are not organic. Therefore, it is in a different category from the ooze. The clay is mostly made up of rocks and dust from ancient meteors. This Red Clay is otherwise also known as Brown Clay, Pelagic Clay or Pelagic Red Clay.

This soil covers an adequate amount of the ocean floor. Approximately, it makes up 38% of the soil on the ocean floor. Each year, it manages to accumulate up to 0.5 centimetres. The Red Clay is a type of ocean soil that is very common in numerous oceans. Approximately, 35% of the Pacific Ocean is made up of Red Clay. Around 25% of Red Clay are present in the Atlantic Ocean as well as the Indian Ocean.

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The Red Clay is mostly made up of minerals from clay, quartz, fish bones, fish teeth, ear bones from whales and other microfossils. It also consists of minerals such as manganese oxides, zeolites, montmorillonite, chlorite, illite, pyroxene, kalonite, feldspar, ferromanganese oxides and limonite.

Other than that, the Red Clay is also made up of volcanic ash or materials that are formed at the bottom of the ocean due the formation of underwater volcanoes. Moreover, traces of micrometeorites can also be found in the soil. Micrometeorites are rocks from space that crash into earth. Micrometeorites are light since they only weigh no more than one gram.

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The fact is that the Red Clay receives most of its compound from the land. Fine particles and dust from the land are either blown by the wind or carried away by running water into the ocean. Another way of the dust building up as the Red Clay is through dust storms. As an example, a dust storm from the Sahara can carry and spread the dust to the ocean.

The colour of Red Clay soil varies from very bright red to brown. The varying hues are due to the minerals contained in the soil such as manganese oxide and iron oxide. Soil that is buried deeper from the surface are found to be more red in colour.

3. Siliceous Ooze

Where the Calcareous Ooze is the most common and abudant type of ocean soil in the world, the Siliceous Ooze is the complete opposite of that. Among the three types of ocean soil, the Siliceous Ooze gives the least amount of soil coverage for the oceans. It is only responsible for only 15% of the floor in the oceans. The accumulation for this soil is also slow. It can only manage to accumulate more sediments around 0.2 cm to 1 cm each year.

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The Siliceous Ooze is mostly made up of dead marine creatures such as diatoms and radiolarians which are actually microscopic silica shells. Plankton also make up a part of the soil formation but still, the most dominant components are still diatoms and radiolarians.

Tropical waters are places where the radiolarians flourish. Meanwhile, diatoms are mostly found in colder waters. It will take around 20 50 years for these organisms to slowly float down to the bottom of the ocean. In the Siliceous Ooze, there is also a presence of opal biogenic silica. This nutrient is important for many of marine plants and animals. In fact, for a soil to be classified as Siliceous Ooze, there must be a at least 30% of that particular silica.

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Areas where the Siliceous Ooze cover the bed of the oceans are areas where there are islands nearby with volcanic mountains. Other than that, they also develop on the floor of oceans with high level of nutrients. They also occur in very cold conditions. Reportedly, there are areas where the soil is made up of 100% siliceous ooze. Furthermore, the colour of the Siliceous Ooze ranges from being extremely white to being varying shades of gray. The colour is often referred to that of snow because of the similarity in appearance.

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Although the Siliceous Ooze is not as dominant and provides a large coverage such as the Calcareous Ooze, it provides an enormous amount of information and details on a lot of things. This particular soil can provide information to paleoclimatologists on the condition of oceans way back in the old ages when Earth was first formed.

Through thorough research, the soil continues to give out vital detail on marine habitat from time to time. Even the fossils of those dead organisms found in the soil are used in isotope analyses. The isotope analyses help to understand the evolution that oceans had gone through. This would not be possible if the Siliceous Ooze is not available.

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Moreover, as said before, the Siliceous Ooze is also very common in places with cold temperatures and also areas where there is an abundance of nutrients. When scientists carry out drilling into the the cores of the soil and into the seafloor, they can gain more details about that location and also the history of that particular ocean. The details may indicate that back then, the ocean temperature was colder than the current temperature. Also, it may show that there were more nutrients available in the ocean that contribute to the formation of the soil.

In conclusion, Calcareous Ooze, Red Clay and Siliceous Ooze are the 3 Types of Ocean Soils in the oceans. At first, they may not seem too significant but within their components, materials and existence, they provide informations that enable to understand how oceans, continents and climates on Earth has continuously change from different stages of age.

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