Saturday, February 4, 2012
A green soil in the highlands of Samar
A soil at the heart of Samar, the third largest island of the Philippine archipelago, and along the Paranas-Taft road at about 300 m above sea level (within the Samar Island Natural Park) easily catches the attention of travelers. This is because it is unique: it is green in color. As far as I know, no soil with such color has yet been reported in the scientific literature.
The dominant green color is probably due to the abundance of the secondary mineral called melanterite, a hydrated iron sulphate mineral (FeSO4.7H2O) formed from the decomposition of pyrite or other iron minerals due to the action of surface waters. It is commonly found in mines as a post-mining formation on mine walls, in sulfidic sedimentary and metamorphic rocks as well as in coal and lignite deposits. It indicates the possible presence of sulfuric acid and should not be handled with bare hands or inhaled (www.mindat.org).
The green soil developed from mudstone interlayered with coal deposit. The site is not far from an area which was mined for coal and pyrite and thus appears to satisfy the environmental conditions favorable for melanterite occurrence.
We had the chance to examine the soil during our fieldwork in Samar on 2-3 Feb 2012 as part of my graduate course in pedology (Soil Science 212). We plan to conduct a detailed pedological and geochemical study on this soil in the near future. For easy reference, I suggest to call it “Samar melanterite soil”.
(Members of the team: Ariel Bolledo, Mark Moreno, Pearl Carnice, Richel Lupos, Dr. Ian Navarrete (Humboldt Research Fellow), Forester Elpidio Cabahit Jr. from the Samar Island Natural Park, and myself)