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Revisiting the genesis of red Mediterranean soils

Turkish Journal of Earth Sciences

Turkish J Earth Sci
(2013) 22: 359-375


Research Article

Revisiting the genesis of red Mediterranean soils


Nicolas FEDOROFF , Marie-Agnès COURTY *
Retired from Agrotech, Paris, France
CNRS-UPR 8532 PROMES Procédés et Matériaux Solaires. Rambla de la Thermodynamique. Tecnosud. 66100 Perpignan, France

Instiut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i EvoluciÓ Social. Universitat Rovira i Virgil, Plaza Imperial.
C/ESCORXADOR, s/n. 43003 Tarragona, Spain
Received: 27.05.2012

Accepted: 09.01.2013

Published Online: 06.05.2013

Printed: 06.06.2013

Abstract: This work, aside from being a classical discussion on the processes of rubefaction and illuviation, is an attempt to cross the
abundant literature on red Mediterranean soils (RMSs) written by pedologists, and also by paleopedologists and geologists, with the
climatic frame established by paleoclimatologists for the Quaternary. Such an approach leads us to consider that the development of
the RMSs was discontinuous, occurring during periods of environmental stability, i.e. interglacials, characterized by a humid climate
(precipitations exceeding evapotranspiration) with dry and hot summers. The impact of glacial intervals on the RMS covers is presently
only partially documented. Aeolian processes during atmospheric instability episodes played a dominant role; however, hydric erosion
and resedimentation cannot be ignored. Severe wind storms have reworked the RMS covers locally, but long distance dusts were also
incorporated into the soils. Outbursts are proposed to explain the disruption observed in pre-Holocene red B horizons. Calcite from
aeolian dusts was dissolved in surface horizons and recrystallized in deeper horizons in the form of discrete features and calcrete. During
the more humid phases of these intervals, RMS became waterlogged in presently humid areas of the Mediterranean basin. The impact
of frost on the RMS covers has been exaggerated. Precise correlations between the climatic fluctuations identified by paleoclimatologists
and features and facies in the soil covers generated during the glacial intervals are almost impossible to establish.
Key Words: Rubefaction, illuviation, behavior of red Mediterranean soils during glacial intervals

1. Introduction
Pedologists, geologists, and geographers recognized
long ago that red colors characterize the soil covers of
the Mediterranean basin (Ramann 1911; Blanck 1930;
Reifenberg 1947; Kubiëna 1953; Boulaine 1984). Many
detailed monographs of the red Mediterranean soils
(RMSs) have been produced (e.g., Atalay 1997; Bech et
al. 1997; Darwish & Zurayk 1997; Yassoglou et al. 1997;
Noulas 2009). RMSs located on stepped fluvial and
marine terraces have attracted many pedologists and
paleopedologists, especially in southern Italy (Sevink
et al. 1982; Scarciglia et al. 2006; Sauer et al. 2010), as
have those buried in alluvial fans (Günster & Skowronek
2001; Ortiz et al. 2002; Carboni et al. 2006; Magliulo et
al. 2006; Zembo 2010; Wagner et al. 2012) or intercalated

within eolianites (Elhajraoui 1985; Muhs et al. 2010).
Many specific soil-forming processes have never been
detected in RMSs; however, they are clearly related to the
Mediterranean basin and also to areas of the world affected
by a Mediterranean type of climate (Yaalon 1997). Most
of the RMSs infill karst of hard limestones and dolomites
(e.g., Atalay 1997; Bech et al. 1997), but they can be
*Correspondence: marie-agnes.courty@promes.cnrs.fr
† Deceased 14 February 2013.

observed on any type of hard bedrock as well as on any
type of unconsolidated sediment. They differ from tropical
red soils by their lower iron oxide content and mixed clay
minerals, whereas in the tropics, only kaolinite is present.
The basic soil-forming processes responsible for the
genesis of RMSs, i.e. rubefaction and clay illuviation, are
presently well understood. However, the environmental
factors required for rubefaction are not quite clearly
perceived. RMSs, when not eroded, appear as texturecontrasted soils characterized by an argillic horizon
according to the USDA (1999), or an argic in the IUSS
Working Group of the FAO (2006); however, in many
of these argillic (argic) horizons, clay coatings could not
be identified (Reynders 1972; Bresson 1974). Pedogenic
carbonates occur frequently in RMSs, the role of which
is also not fully understood. The origin of the RMSs’
parental material has also been widely discussed in terms
of autochthonous vs. allochthonous (Bronger & BruhnLobin 1997; Muhs et al. 2010). In the first section, we will
review the literature on parental materials and on the soilforming processes occurring in RMSs.
The theory of uniformitarianism, i.e. that the present is
the key to the past, applied to pedology by Marbut (1935),


FEDOROFF and COURTY / Turkish J Earth Sci
supports most of the investigations of the genesis of RMSs.
According to this theory, soils are supposed to develop
linearly under the influence of environmental factors until
they reach an equilibrium with prevailing environmental
conditions, the steady state. Anomalies observed in
applying to soils the theory of linear development had
led to the introduction of subsidiary concepts, such as the
threshold concept, which explains abrupt changes in the
soil development in the absence of environmental change
(Yaalon 1971) as well as the feedback system (Yaalon 1983),
which is supposed to be the result of soil internal evolution.
Most papers on the genesis of RMSs are based on such an
approach, even some that are recent, e.g., Recio Espejo et
al. (2008). Lobeck (1939) pointed out that geomorphic
processes are periodic and soil development is related to
them. Ehhart (1956) proposed the theory of biorhexistasy,
which supposes an alternation of periods of soil formation
followed by episodes of soil erosion. Butler (1959) and
Hack and Goodlett (1960) also provided evidence that
soil development and erosion have been periodic and are
driven by episodic geomorphic processes. Bockheim et al.
(2005) considered that soil development and erosion have
been periodic rather than continuous. Sequences in which
red paleosols are intercalated in loess (Günster et al. 2001)
or eolianites (Muhs et al. 2010) have been investigated
(Figure 1). In the second section, based on the now wellaccepted theory that soil development is the long-term
result of an alternation of the pedogenic phases and of
episodic soil cover disruption and erosion, we will try to set
the rubefaction–illuviation phase within pedosedimentary
cycles (Fedoroff et al. 2010) (Figures 2 and 3). The concept
of pedosedimentary cycles supposes a close integration of
the impact on soil covers of environmental fluctuations,

50 cm

Figure 1. Red sands intercalated between 2 cemented, crossbedded eolianites. Morocco, Atlantic coast, north of Rabat.






Figure 2. Cumulic RMS. Morocco, Casablanca. Thomas Quarry,
south Sidi Abderrahmane section. From top to bottom: 1) plow
layer, 2) B horizon, 3) IIB horizon, 4) gravelly layer, 5) IIIB
horizon, 6) in situ argillic B horizon characterized by red clay
coatings and infillings, 7) partially dissolved eolianites.

i.e. long-term climatic fluctuations, glacial vs. interglacial,
and abrupt environmental crisis (Dansgaard et al. 1993;
Sanchez Goñi et al. 2002; Hemming 2004; Martrat et al.
2. Origin of RMS parental materials
This origin has been debated for decades and is still
controversial. Many pedologists (e.g., Reifenberg 1947;
Dudal et al. 1966) considered that terra rossa on limestone
was developed on the residuum of the dissolution of the
parental bedrock. Glazovskaya and Parfenova (1974)
admitted that slope colluviums can also contribute to
RMSs. However, Kubiëna (1953) envisaged an enrichment
of terra rossa by aeolian materials. This approach was
developed by Yaalon and Ganor (1973), and then by Rapp
(1984) and Yaalon (1997). This assumption was not easy
to demonstrate, due to loessic additions to soils in the
loess belt. Specific features and facies due to dust-like loess
cannot be detected in the field as well as in thin sections;
however, more sophisticated techniques have enabled
the identification of the input of aeolian dust in RMSs.
MacLeod (1980) compared the low siliceous residue in

FEDOROFF and COURTY / Turkish J Earth Sci



Figure 3. Red Mediterranean B horizon covered by aeolian
sands. Morocco, vicinity of Rabat, Chaperon rouge section. From
top to bottom: 1) A1 horizon, 2) very weakly developed Bt in
upper sands, 3) gravelly layer containing Aterian artifacts, 4)
lower sands, 5) argillic B horizon.

carbonate bedrock with the grain size distribution in terra
rossa to infer an aeolian origin for these soils in Greece.
Durn et al. (1999), using clay minerals and geochemical
indicators, concluded that terra rossa in Croatia derives
from loessic sediments. Genova et al. (2001), studying
red soils in Sardinia using neutron activation analysis,
concluded aeolian additions to these soils. Jackson et al.
(1982) utilized oxygen isotopes in quartz to support a
dominant aeolian origin in the terra rossa soils of Italy,
as did Nihlén and Olsson (1995) in Crete. Delgado et
al. (2003), who investigated RMSs in southern Spain,
reported mineralogical evidence in favor of a double
origin, residue from the bedrock and aeolian. Recently,
Erel and Torrent (2010) measured the concentrations and
isotopic composition of Pb and Sr in the Al silicates and Fe
oxides of 2 red soils in the Guadalquivir Basin, from which
they concluded that Saharan dust makes up a significant
fraction of the Al silicates and Fe oxides of the studied soils.
Muhs et al. (2010), by analyzing immobile trace elements
in Majorca in red paleosols lying on eolianites, found that
the noncarbonate fractions of the eolianites have more
distinctive Zr/Hf, La/Yb, Cr/Sc, and Th/Ta values than the
overlying red soils, which led these authors to conclude
that African dust may explain the origin of much terra
rossa on carbonate bedrock around the Mediterranean

We can consider that the input of African dust in
RMSs is presently accepted by pedologists. However, the
following remarks have to be made about the published
results on this subject:
• Authors refer to present day conditions of aeolian
erosion and dust transportation considering that in the
past the parental materials of RMSs accreted during
interglacials (Muhs et al. 2010). What happened to RMS
covers during glacial periods during which many severe
wind storms occurred? Andreucci et al. (2011) determined
that the Saharan dust input in northwestern Sardinian
(Italy) buried red paleosols/sediments, together with local
materials, via trace element analyses and the presence of
palygorskite and rounded-indented quartz grains.
• The forms in which desert dusts, e.g., clay coatings,
are incorporated to RMSs were never investigated.
• RMSs are often associated with secondary calcitic
discrete or continuous (calcrete) features, which are
considered by many authors to also be aeolian in origin
(Kapur et al. 1990; Goodfriend et al. 1996; Kubilay et al.
1997; Kapur et al. 1998; von Suchodoletz et al. 2009). The
relationships between the accretion of calcite-free and
calcite-rich dusts in RMSs have never been investigated.
Recently, Diaz-Hernandez and Parraga (2008)
mentioned microspherulites (60–90 µm in diameter)
sampled in the Granada Depression, consisting of complex
mineral assemblages and also containing biological
remains (plants, silica shells, plankton), which may also
contribute to the genesis of RMSs. Courty et al. (2008)
described on 2 ends of the Mediterranean basin, in the
Vera basin (southeastern Spain) and in the eastern Khabur
basin (northeastern Syria), a dust event at 4 ka BP due to
the fallback of impact ejecta.
3. Pedogenic processes involved in the genesis of RMSs
To reach a reliable understanding of the RMSs’ genesis,
a prerequisite is a good comprehension of the basic
soil-forming processes that lead to RMS development,
rubefaction, and clay illuviation. Weathering of parental
minerals must also be taken in account.
3.1. Rubefaction
Rubefaction is considered to be the leading soil-forming
process in RMSs, essentially because pedologists, but also
geographers, were and are attracted by the red color of the
soils, which has led them to underestimate or even ignore
other processes that took place and are taking place in
these soils. Various explanations for rubefaction have been
proposed in the past (e.g., Agafonoff & Graziansky 1933;
Marcelin 1947; Reifenberg 1947; Kubiëna 1953). Presently,
the process of rubefaction is quite well understood, but its
environmental interpretation is still questionable.
Rubefaction results from the microcrystals (Bresson
1974; Mirabella & Carnicelli 1992) in hematite being


FEDOROFF and COURTY / Turkish J Earth Sci
randomly distributed in the ground mass in association
with goethite, and maghemite can be also present. The
content in the iron oxides in RMSs is rather low, less than
5% according to Torrent (1994), and lower than in tropical
red soils. Torrent et al. (1983) interpreted this difference as
a weaker aggregation in RMSs. Hematite possesses a high
pigmenting power, which masks the goethite.
We follow Bresson (1976), Schwertmann et al. (1974),
Torrent and Cabedo (1986), and Noulas et al. (2009),
who stated that rubefaction occurs and occurred in
surface horizons, and then the rubified material is and
was translocated with clays to depth. In monophase,
nonreworked RMSs, the distribution of the red color
throughout the profile is governed by clay illuviation, and
more generally by translocation of the particles. Boero and
Schwertmann (1989) supposed that iron is released from
primary sources followed by the preferential formation
of hematite over goethite, whereas Bresson (1974) and
Jouaffre et al. (1991) considered that hematite forms
essentially from the in situ modification of goethite.
Torrent and Cabedo (1986), on RMSs lying on hematitefree calcarenites, supposed that hematite originated
mainly from the alteration of the Fe-bearing smectites.
They interpreted the partial loss of the initial goethite as an
alteration to the hematite. Schwertmann and Murad (1983)
also showed the role of pH in the formation of hematite
vs. goethite, whereas Michalet et al. (1993) pointed out the
role of amorphous Al-hydroxy polycations.
The distribution of RMSs around the Mediterranean
basin implies that rubefaction is related to Mediterranean
types of climate characterized by a hot and dry summer
and a rainy cool winter. As most RMSs are relics of the
past (see Section 6), it is consequently hazardous to use
present-day climatic conditions for interpreting their
rubefaction. Bresson (1976), Schwertmann et al. (1982),
and Jouaffre et al. (1991) reported rubefaction during
the Holocene on the northern fringes of Mediterranean
basin. Precipitation reaches 1700 mm and the mean
annual temperature is 6 °C at the site studied by Jouaffre
et al. (1991). It should be mentioned that soils investigated
by these authors are very permeable, desiccating in the
summer, sufficient to induce the formation of hematite. A
pedoclimate characterized by an excess of drainage, as in
karst (Boero & Schwertmann 1989; Boero et al. 1992) or in
coarse glaciofluvial sediments with periods of desiccation
during summer, seems favorable to rubefaction.
The impact of vegetal cover burning on rubefaction
has been also been studied. Yellowish goethites are readily
dehydrated by heating, and in the presence of organic
matter, they first form a dark reddish brown maghemite;
with further heating, they change into a bright red hematite
(Terefe et al. 2005; Terefe et al. 2008).


3.2. Clay illuviation
Tavernier (1957) and many other pedologists (e.g., Torrent
1976; Cremaschi 1987) considered clay illuviation as a
leading process in RMSs, responsible for the clay-enriched
subsurface horizon. However, a thin-section analysis of
most RMSs’ argillic horizons reveals an absence of clay
coatings (e.g., Reynders 1972; Bresson 1974) in these
horizons (Figure 4). However, in RMSs in which the argillic
horizon appears free of clay coatings, such features can be
present in deeper horizons (Figure 5), where they can be
identified only at high magnifications. In the weathering
zones of igneous and metamorphic rocks (Penven et al.
1981; Lahmar & Bresson 1987), an accurate analysis under
PolM reveals frequent fragments of clay coatings in the
apparently homogeneous red ground mass (Scarcaglia et
al. 2006; Priori et al. 2008). Servat (1966) and Duchaufour
(1977) proposed the concept of “appauvrissement”
(surficial depletion), which is supposed to result from
subsurface runoff, in order to explain the abrupt contrast
in the clay content existing frequently in RMSs between
A and B horizons. Nevertheless, clay coatings have been
observed in the B horizons of RMSs that are Holocene in
age on the northern fringe of the Mediterranean basin:
for instance, in Jura (Bresson 1974), in low terraces of the
middle Rhône valley, and in northwestern Spain (Fedoroff
The absence of clay coatings in B horizons of RMSs has
led to the following hypothesis: 1) self-mixing postulates
that illuvial clays are incorporated into the B ground mass
as soon as they have been deposited as a result of shrink–
swell (Fedoroff 1972; Reynders 1972); 2) the B ground mass
can be churned by the soil fauna (Fitzpatrick 1993), and 3)
the high stability of red fersiallitic ground mass prevents
clay dispersion (Lamouroux et al. 1978). Here we explain
this absence by the severe reworking that has affected all

50 µm

Figure 4. Typical microstructure of a Mediterranean red
argillic horizon (high magnification). Algeria, vicinity of
Tlemcen. Dense, irregular packing of rounded to subrounded
microaggregates. Dark red, quasi-opaque ferruginous fragments
randomly distributed in the red ground mass.

FEDOROFF and COURTY / Turkish J Earth Sci

50 µm

Figure 5. Massive microstructure with residual packing voids
infilled by yellow illuviated clays near the base of a Mediterranean
red argillic horizon (high magnification), half a meter below
previous micrograph. Algeria, vicinity of Tlemcen.

RMSs during erosion and aeolian episodes though the
whole Pleistocene period, except for those that were buried
immediately after a rubefaction–illuviation phase. Figure
4 illustrates this view point, where rounded to subrounded
microaggregates have to be considered as wind-winnowed
pseudosands and not as fecal pellets, of which they do not
have the morphology and composition. In Figure 5, the
microaggregates are coalescent, but their initial forms can
be recognized, whereas some remaining packing voids
are infilled almost totally by translucent illuvial clays. Our
interpretation of this typical RMS of northwestern Algeria
is the following: 1) a RMS cover was deeply disturbed
and wind eroded, 2) the red material was locally windwinnowed and redeposited, and 3) later, a very weak clay
eluviation affected the reworked red material, whereas
translocated clays were trapped in residual packing voids
at the base of the B horizon. These illuvial clays cannot be
identified in the field or even during a routine thin-section
analysis. Achyuthan and Fedoroff (2008) described a
similar case in southern India.
3.3. Weathering of primary minerals in RMSs
Rubefaction is independent of primary and clay mineral
weathering. In recent rubified soils, i.e. the Holocene, any
weathering is detected, except for some vermiculitization
of illites (Bresson 1974; Jouaffre et al. 1991; Colombo &
Terribile 1994). As the age of the RMS increases, e.g., on
stepped terraces, kaolinite tends to dominate (Terhorst
& Ottner 2003; Wagner et al. 2007). The weathering of
primary minerals, present in gravel beds upon which the
RMSs are frequently developed, increases with the age of
the terrace on which they have been deposited (Billard
1995). The rubified material penetrates into the weathered
gravel in the form of red clay coatings independently of
their degree of weathering (Penven et al. 1981).

4. Other features and facies present in RMSs
The features of dissolution of primary and secondary
carbonates as well as various facies of carbonate accretion
exist in RMSs, and redoximorphic features and facies can
also be present in RMS covers. The secondary carbonates
are located in drier regions of the Mediterranean basin,
whereas redoximorphic features and facies characterize
wetter ones, with some overlapping. The development of
both of these features and facies increases with age, weakly
developed in the Late Pleistocene and well-developed in
the Early Pleistocene. Frost-related features and facies
have been described even in the core of the Mediterranean
basin at sea level.
4.1. Carbonate dissolution and accretion in RMSs
Pedologists presently agree that carbonate dissolution,
primary as well secondary, occurred synchronously with
rubefaction and illuviation (Alonso et al. 2004; Carboni et
al. 2006).
Close and frequently complex relationships exist
between RMSs and secondary carbonate accumulations
(Alonso et al. 2004) (Figure 6). Such RMSs are located
in regions (Spain, northern Africa, Near and Middle
East) presently under subarid climates, whereas RMSs
under present humid and subhumid climates, such as
the northern fringe of the Mediterranean basin (France;
northern and central Italy), are free of secondary calcium
carbonate. The development and complexity of these
secondary calcium carbonate accumulations increase with
time (Alonso et al. 2004; Badia et al. 2009). Young soils
(Holocene and late Pleistocene) contain only discrete,
monophased (sensu Fedoroff et al. 2010), calcitic features,
whereas older ones (Middle and Early Pleistocene) are
characterized by continuous (calcrete) and polyphased

200 µm




Figure 6. Transition red argillic horizon to calcrete. Morocco,
Casablanca. Thomas Quarry, north Sidi Abderrahmane section.
1) Thick, clay feature – first phase of clay illuviation; 2) calcitic
aggradation; 3) partial calcite dissolution; 4) thin, dusty clay
coatings on secondary calcite surface and in dissolution voids –
second phase of clay illuviation.


FEDOROFF and COURTY / Turkish J Earth Sci
calcitic facies (Alonso et al. 2004; Badia et al. 2009). Kapur
et al. (1987) described evolutionary sequences proceeding
from the Middle to the Early Pleistocene covering a phase
of sedimentation (from a mud flow) to the final outcome,
the massive calcrete crust, with the weathered overlying
red soil.
Two questions have puzzled geologists and pedologists
about the secondary carbonates in RMSs, which still
remain controversial. The first concerns their origin and
the processes responsible for their accretion, whereas the
second deals with the effect of carbonates on the host red
material during their accretion.
Different origins of secondary carbonate in RMSs have
to be considered (Candy & Black 2009): 1) carbonates
are leached from upper horizons and accreted in lower
horizons, the per descendum origin; 2) carbonates are
provided by ground water and they can accrete in the
capillary fringe, a per ascendum origin (Recio Espejo et al.
2008); 3) in the saturated zone, carbonates originate from
leaching of calcareous bedrocks, transported laterally in
solution and precipitated when ground water comes close
to the soil surface and is consequently evaporated; or 4)
the deposition of calcium carbonate-rich aeolian dust is
followed by a redistribution in the soil profile by capillary
or saturated water. The per descendum origin has to be
refuted as almost all RMSs, when carbonates accreted,
were already free of parental carbonates (Ortiz et al.
2002; Alonso et al. 2004). The presence of calcified soils
and calcretes on parental bedrocks as granites (Ducloux
et al. 1990) or basalts (Hamidi et al. 2001) strengthen the
aeolian hypothesis.
Two facies exist between the host red silicate material
and the secondary carbonates, clearly expressed under
polarizing microscope: 1) the host material appears as
progressively replaced by carbonates, and 2) residual
grains, e.g., quartz and feldspars, float within the
secondary calcitic ground mass. The replacement of host
material affects the whole ground mass, including the
coarse fraction in fully calcified horizons dating back to
the Early and Middle Pleistocene (Alonso et al. 2004).
Grains appear fragmented (brecciated according to
Paquet & Ruellan 1997), embedded in a sparitic ground
mass, whereas the replacement of fine mass by carbonates
produced yellowish brown calcite of thick fibrous crystals
(Alonso et al. 2004). In younger calcified horizons, the
calcification can be followed in all of its phases from the
initial phase of clay coating disruption to the complete
dispersion of the clayey mass in the calcitic ground mass,
in which yellowish and reddish colors keep the memory
of the host material (Alonso et al. 2004). Biotites in such
calcified horizons are characterized at the initial stage
by the presence of calcitic crystals between exfoliated
plates; in the next stage, biotite plates appear separated,


embedded in a continuous calcitic ground mass; and
finally they appear dispersed in this mass. The properties
in the plain and polarized lights of biotites through all of
these stages are preserved. Commonly (Nahon & Ruellan
1975; Millot 1979; Watts 1980; Paquet & Ruellan 1997),
floating quartz is interpreted as a silica dissolution under
high pH due to the supersaturation of the soil solution in
pCO2, which leads one to consider the replacement of the
red clayey mass, sometimes called epigenesis (Reheis 1988;
Hamidi et al. 2001), as a geochemical process consisting
of the lixiviation (dissolution) of all silicate minerals and
their replacement by calcite. The theory of replacement
(epigenesis) implies that silicate lixiviation, including
quartz, was forged supposing a linear soil development. In
fact, RMSs and the related calcitic accretions are a result
of a cyclic evolution. Each cycle consists schematically of
the 2 pedogenic phases (Fedoroff et al. 2010): 1) a phase
of rubefaction, illuviation, and carbonate dissolution in
relation to a climatic period characterized by acid rains
and precipitations exceeding evapotranspiration; and 2)
a phase dominated by carbonate accretion. Carbonate
dissolution affects parental carbonates as well as secondary
carbonates accreted in an earlier phase. The facies of
floating quartz is formed during this phase of dissolution.
Low pCO2 water penetrates the pores of secondary calcite
that is partially dissolved, especially around quartz grains,
which leads to the floating grain morphology. When the
parental material consists of sand grains coated by red
clays, the coatings remain unaltered when the sand grains
become floating. Such a behavior of clay-coated sand grains
firmly supports the assertion that in floating quartz, the
embedding calcite is partially dissolved and not the silica.
On the contrary, the process of host material replacement
(epigenesis) occurs during a phase of soil saturation by
high pCO2 water favoring calcite precipitation, which leads
to a progressive dilution of the host material. A lixiviation
of silicate is not invoked. Such an assertion is supported
by the fragmentation followed by the dispersion of biotite
without any alteration of its properties.
4.2. Redoximorphic features and facies in RMSs
Redoximorphic features and facies are common in RMS
covers. Their development increases with age. The most
developed features and facies are observed in soils of
higher terraces and in buried soils of the Middle and Early
Pleistocene (Bornand 1978; Elhajraoui 1985; Carboni
et al. 2006). These redoximorphic features and facies
occur preferentially in the presently wettest area of the
Mediterranean basin, which implies a mutual exclusion
of these features and calcitic ones; however, both can be
present in some profiles. At the first stage of development,
a few small, yellowish mottles dispersed in a red ground
mass appear, and eventually Fe-Mn concretions appear
(Fedoroff 1997). At the maximum of development, the B

FEDOROFF and COURTY / Turkish J Earth Sci
horizon appears totally mottled, yellowish, and red, with
grayish iron- and clay-depleted tongues in which in the
tongue bottom can be recognized in thin-section silty clay
intercalations, whereas Fe-Mn concretions can be present
on the B horizon (Elhajraoui 1985; Scarciglia et al. 2003a,
2003b; Terhorst & Ottner 2003; Kühn et al. 2006).
These redoximorphic features and facies correspond to
a seasonal soil water logging, which in the case of their
maximum development should have reached the top soil
and lasted several months. Such water logging supposes
precipitations largely exceeding the soil water filtration.
4.3. Evidence of past frost action in RMSs
Fossil cryogenic features and facies have been identified
in soils of the Mediterranean basin, even at rather low
elevations. Dimase (2006) in the Sila massif (southern
Italy) at an elevation of 1350 m described sand infilled ice
wedges, whereas Günster et al. (2001) in the Granada basin,
between 500–900 m elevation, mentioned cryoclasts and
gelifluction as well as ice wedge infillings. These features
and facies indicate that frost has penetrated deep into the
soils, and even that a permafrost existed, to which the
infilled ice wedges testify. At sea level, in the middle and
southern shores of the Mediterranean basin, the absence
of infilled ice wedges means that permafrost has never
developed; however, all ante-Holocene RMSs are reworked
(see Section 5). At low elevation, in buried paleosols
formed during glacial intervals, Scarciglia et al. (2003a,
2003b) reported layered silt and clay coatings and vesicular
pores along the coast of Campania, which resulted from
the rapid thaw of a thick snow cover in spring according
to Fedoroff et al. (1981) and consequently characterize a
more boreal climate than a periglacial. However, in surface
RMSs, no cryogenic features and facies have ever been
5. Evidence of erosion and severe reworking of RMS
covers during Pleistocene
Pedologists considered that RMS covers, including
Pleistocene-inherited ones, remained stable, only affected
by the soil forming processes. However, this point of view
is far from corresponding to facts recently published.
Red pedosediments have been frequently considered
as in situ RMSs. In Mamora (Morocco), Aberkan (1989)
showed that red layers intercalated in eolianites, earlier
considered as RMSs, are in fact red sediments (see also
Fedoroff 1997) (Figures 1 and 2). Van Andel (1998) in
Greece showed the high degree of erosion and redeposition
of red soil covers.
Buried RMSs always appear truncated, except some
Holocene ones (Ortiz et al. 2002). Günster and Skowronek
(2001) in the Granada basin observed that an erosion
of upper horizons, even frequently only the calcium
carbonate-cemented horizon, is the sign of a RMS.

Aside from truncations, RMS sections, when
investigated with scrutiny, appear to consist of
superimposed profiles separated by truncations (Fedoroff
1997; Priori et al. 2008) (Figure 2). In Casablanca quarries
(Texier et al. 1992; Raynal et al. 2010) in which RMSs
are exposed in wide and numerous sections, truncations
are evidenced by gravel beds (e.g., the gravelly layer of
Figure 2 in which Paleolithic tools may be present). In
these quarries, thin, truncated (only the base of the argillic
horizon is preserved), developed in situ RMSs are present
in and just above the karstified eolianites, as in horizon
6 of Figure 2 (Fedoroff 1997). Laterally, the eolianites are
covered by a calcrete with a lamellar crust on top, in which
Paleolithic tools were found. Red profiles lying on the
lamellar crust show reworked characters.
Truncations of buried RMSs can be explained by hydric
erosion as a result of an episode of heavy rains, a rhexistasic
phase sensu Ehhart (1956). However, water-reworked red
pedosediments characterized by layering and variable
sorting have been rarely mentioned (Hourani & Courty
1997). Instead, reworked RMSs are usually characterized
by a homogeneous, and in general rather dense, packing of
rounded, well-sorted red microaggregates of coarse silt and
fine sand in size (Figure 4), which probably results from
a winnowing, although a geochemical explanation has
been proposed for this microaggregation (Michalet et al.
1993). The close relationship existing between in situ RMS
roots and aeolian reworked red soils has to be interpreted
as short-distance transportation. The emptying of karstic
holes and their infilling by reworked red material should
be the result of very powerful winds (Aberkan 1989).
However, such an aeolian reworking of RMSs is almost not
mentioned in the literature. Such reworked RMSs along
the Atlantic coast of Morocco should be considered in a
first approximation as a lateral facies of eolianites.
Anomalies in the distribution of illuvial clays in
red B horizons show that RMS covers have been deeply
reworked many times during the Pleistocene (Figures 1
and 2). In situ and almost undisturbed clay coatings exist
only in recent (Holocene) argillic B (Bresson 1976), and
eventually in deep B3t and in C. These anomalies have
been ignored or misinterpreted.
Various degrees of deformation, fragmentation, and
dispersion in the ground mass of illuvial clays have been
observed in RMSs. Scarcaglia et al. (2003a), following, e.g.,
Catt (1989) and Kemp (1998), described “degenerated”
clay coatings, characterized by a disjointed birefringence
fabric. However, most commonly, the illuvial clay features
are fragmented and dispersed in the ground mass. The
abundance and size vary considerably. The ground mass
can consist entirely of clay fragments, which can be a few
millimeters in size (Mücher et al. 1972), such a facies being
usually observed just above a calcrete. In the Thomas quarry


FEDOROFF and COURTY / Turkish J Earth Sci
(Casablanca, Morocco), Fedoroff (1997) observed, above
the in situ RMS root, 2 soils characterized at a microscopic
level by (Figure 2) a fine spongy microstructure, small
fragments of red clay coatings in variable abundance
regularly distributed in the ground mass, and weakly
expressed calcitic features. Most frequently, as in the
Thomas quarry, small (from some to 100 µm), birefringent
domains in variable abundance are randomly distributed
in the ground mass (Scarcaglia et al. 2006; Priori et al.
2008). The identification of these domains as illuvial clay
fragments supposes thin sections of good quality and an
accurate analysis at high magnifications, which explains
why most micromorphologists have missed them.
Unsorted or poorly sorted silty clay to silty infillings, in
which fragments of illuvial clay can be present, can be
observed below the truncation line (Kühn et al. 2006;
Fedoroff et al. 2010).
The fragmentation and dispersion of illuvial clay
features in the RMS ground mass have been interpreted
as disturbances due to frost, e.g., Ortiz et al. (2002).
However, this fragmentation has never been observed in
RMSs in association with cryogenic features. Moreover,
comparable fragmented and dispersed illuvial clay features
have been described in the tropics, e.g., in Cuba (Boulet
et al. 1985), in the Yucatan (Cabadas et al. 2010), and in
Lanzarote (Canary Islands; von Suchodoletz et al. 2009).
Consequently, another hypothesis other than frost action
is needed to explain this global fragmentation (Fedoroff et
al. 2010). Airbursts, such as those envisaged by Courty et
al. (2008), are a good candidate. Sudden and considerable
pressure shook the soils, significantly fragmenting those
that were not displaced. Later, the fragile fragmented
materials were winnowed locally by severe winds following
the airburst and were deposited. In the Thomas quarry, the
spongy microstructure is a result of a packing of winnowed
red fragments rich in illuvial clay, whereas calcitic features
are postdepositional. The fragments of illuvial clays present
in silty clay infillings can be interpreted as resulting from
a percolation of water loaded with disrupted soil material
from above immediately after the soil disruption.
6. Development of RMSs during the Quaternary
Almost all authors of recent publications on RMSs agree
on the following points:
1. The development of RMSs was discontinuous through
the Quaternary, occurring in the form of pedogenic phases
(sensu Fedoroff et al. 2010) characterized by carbonate
dissolution, rubefaction, clay illuviation, and episodes
of erosion and sedimentation, frequently aeolian origin
(Figures 2 and 3).
2. RMSs show an increase, from the Late to Early
Quaternary, in the reddening of the clay content and in the
weathering of primary and clay minerals (Remmelzwaal


1979; Arduino et al. 1986; Simon et al. 2000; Wagner et al.
2007; Sauer et al. 2010).
3. Phases of rubefaction–illuviation correspond to wet
climate, whereas the carbonate accretion is bound to a
drier one (e.g., Bahia et al. 2009; Wagner et al. 2012).
However, a few important points concerning the
development of RMSs through the Quaternary remain
controversial or poorly understood. One of the main
controversies concerns the simultaneity of rubefaction–
illuviation during the Holocene over the whole
Mediterranean basin as well as during earlier periods.
Rubefaction–illuviation in Holocene soils was reported
mainly on the northern fringe of the Mediterranean
basin (Bresson 1974, 1976; Schwertmann et al. 1982;
Jouaffre et al. 1991) and probably also in Italy (Bini &
Garlato 1999), whereas Zielhofer et al. (2009) in northern
Tunisia concluded that Holocene soils were not affected by
rubefaction. However, Aberkan (1989) mentioned that in
northern Mamora (Morocco), reddish soils characterized
by impure clay coatings developed on eolianites dated
from the very Late Pleistocene, whereas Texier et al.
(1992) described more in the interior of the Mamora in
yellow aeolian, carbonate-free sands, and reddish brown
impure clay coatings, organized in the form of bands that
were supposed to have been formed during the Holocene.
Cremaschi & Trombino (1998) in southern Fezzan
(Saharan Libya) reported on rubified soils dating to the
Early and Middle Holocene. Gvirtzman & Wieder (2001)
in the Sharon plain (Israel) described a weak rubefaction
between 10 and 7.5 ka. We will conclude that rubefaction–
illuviation occurred all around the Mediterranean basin
during the Early Holocene, but was more expressed on its
northern fringes.
Most authors consider that rubefaction–illuviation
phases occurred during interglacials (Carboni et al. 2006;
Zembo 2010). However, the available data mainly concern
the last interglacial oxygen isotope stage (OIS) 5. Günster
et al. (2001) identified in the Granada basin a rubefaction–
illuviation phase during OIS 5e, whereas interstadial soils,
according to these authors, are gray to brown in color
(7.5–10 YR) and free of clay illuviation. Muhs et al. (2010)
in Mallorca considered that the red paleosols probably
represent interglacials or interstadials, whereas the
eolianites correspond to glacial periods. Fedoroff (1997) in
the Mamora (Morocco) described a karstic dissolution of
eolianites, on which lies a red argillic horizon, characterized
by red microlaminated clay coatings that are supposed to
date from the last interglacial, and eventually from earlier
ones (Figure 2).
According to Ortiz et al. (2002), in the Granada basin,
the Middle Pleistocene OIS 7 (186,000–242,000 BP) was
the most favorable for rubefaction–illuviation, whereas
during OIS 9 (301,000–334,000 BP) and OIS 11 (364,000–

FEDOROFF and COURTY / Turkish J Earth Sci
427,000 BP), climatic conditions were less favorable.
Alonso et al. (2010) in the Tormes river basin (central
Spain) distinguished 2 periods, around 200 and 500 ka,
favorable for carbonate dissolution and rubefaction–
In southern Italy, outcropping red soils, some buried,
on stepped fluvial and marine terraces offer a good
opportunity for understanding the genesis of RMSs
through the Quaternary (Coltorti and Pieruccini 2000;
Carboni et al. 2006; Magliulo et al. 2006; Scarciglia et al.
2006; Sauer et al. 2010; Zembo 2010). According to these
authors, these soils were formed during interglacials and
then truncated. In northern Cilento (South Italy) at sea
level, Scarciglia et al. (2003a) described a buried RMS that
the authors attributed to OIS 7. Cremaschi and Trombino
(1998) in southern Fezzan also suggested that wellexpressed red soils have developed during interglacials.
However, in northern Cilento, Scarciglia et al. (2003a)
described an OIS 5 paleosol characterized by strong
hydromorphic characters.
On the contrary, Zielhofer et al. (2009) in northern
Tunisia observed a strong rubefaction (5–7.5 Y/R
4/6) in decalcified Bt horizons between 40 and 10 ka,
whereas von Suchodoletz et al. (2009) proposed that
in Lanzarote (Canary Islands), rubefaction–illuviation
occurred during OISs 2, 3, 4 and 6, which excludes the
last interglacial. RMSs intercalated between eolianites
have been intensively studied, dated by many radiometric
dates, in the coastal plain of Israel. According to Frechen
et al. (2004), rubefaction took place in the Carmel coastal
plain between 140 and 130 ka, at the beginning of OIS 5e,
and then around 80, 65, and 60 ka and between 20 and
12 ka, whereas in the Sharon coastal plain, red soils have
developed, according to Frechen et al. (2002), between
35 and 25 ka and 15 and 12 ka. However, Gvirtzman and
Wieder (2001) in the same Sharon plain considered that
the most expressed red soils developed between 40 and
12.5 ka and later were buried by loess deposited during the
Younger Dryas.
These controversies about the occurrences of the
rubefaction–illuviation phases during the Late Pleistocene
do not result from the climate zoning in the Mediterranean
basin as some authors have supposed, but are probably
from a misinterpretation of investigated red soils. Thus,
the red soils (hamra) studied in Israel could be reworked
red soils as those in Mamora (Morocco) formed during
an earlier interglacial. Radiometric dates (Gvirtzman
& Wieder 2001; Frechen et al. 2004, 2006) provided for
these hamra soils correspond to their reworking and not to
their genesis. Von Suchodoletz et al. (2009) for Lanzarote
admitted that the investigated red layers are colluvial.
These authors suggested that the genesis of corresponding
in situ red soils could have occurred during glacial

intervals just because of the climate zoning. In Tunisia
(Zielhofer et al. 2009), the mentioned RMSs could also
have been reworked. We would conclude that rubefaction–
illuviation occurred during interglacials simultaneously
all around the Mediterranean basin, probably during the
whole Pleistocene.
The literature does not provide much information
about the duration of the rubefaction–illuviation phase.
Courty (1994) described in northeastern Syria such
a phase during the Holocene first climatic optimum,
whereas Courty et al. (1998) detected a short phase of
rubefaction–illuviation that lasted 100 years following the
4000-year cosmic event. Günster et al. (2001) showed in
the loess–paleosol sequence of the last interglacial–glacial
cycle of the Granada basin that rubefaction associated
with clay illuviation occurred only during OIS stage 5e.
As a hypothesis, we propose that rubefaction–illuviation
phases lasted a few thousand years based on the high
number of microlaminations and the thickness of the
clay coatings and their abundance. Macklin et al. (2002),
analyzing fluvial sequences in the Mediterranean basin,
demonstrated that only during the earlier part of OIS
5e were the Mediterranean landscapes stable, whereas
pronounced landscape changes had already occurred
during OIS 5d (109–111 ka) and most notably at the OIS
boundary of 5b/5a (88 ka).
Relationships between environmental parameters
and the rubefaction–illuviation phases are usually not
discussed in detail. Authors just mention that these phases
correspond to a wet climate, whereas carbonate accretion
corresponds to a drier one (e.g., Wagner et al. 2012).
Calcite dissolution at any depth in RMS profiles means that
the sum of the precipitations exceeded evapotranspiration
during this phase, whereas the rains were probably acidic.
The regular microlamination of clay coatings indicates
a regular rain distribution of rains without any water
excess and also an interannual stability of precipitations.
However, rubefaction supposes a severe desiccation of
surface horizons during at least some days/weeks of rather
high temperatures during summer.
What happened to RMS covers in the Mediterranean
basin during glacial intervals is only partially understood.
The memory of RMSs related to these intervals has been
more or less largely erased. Moreover, little research has
been attempted to analyze the remaining memory of these
intervals in RMSs. Soil development during these intervals
is documented only locally, with a high resolution, by
studying buried soils (Günster & Skowronek 2001;
Günster et al. 2001; Scarciglia et al. 2003a, 2003b; Kühn et
al. 2006). The available results principally concern the last
glacial interval (from OIS 5d to 2). Based on this literature,
soil and landscape evolution appear to be characterized by:
1) a great instability of soil covers and even of landscapes,


FEDOROFF and COURTY / Turkish J Earth Sci
2) being affected by various soil forming processes, and 3)
short periods of soil development (Günster et al. 2001).
The thick, yellow, microlaminated clay feature of Figure 7 is
an example of clay illuviation during glacial intervals. This
feature indicates that during these intervals, rubefaction
was replaced by brunification; more humid and cooler
temperatures favored goethite formation and probably the
replacement of hematite by goethite. The great thickness of
this feature is also typical for these intervals (e.g., Scarciglia
et al. 2003a, 2003b; Kühn et al. 2006).
The instability of soil covers is evidenced by soil
truncations, which are mentioned by all authors
in sequences of buried soils. Aeolian erosion and
sedimentation in the form of loess and locally winnowed
red soils have extensively affected Mediterranean soil
covers. Loess in which fragments of RMSs can be present
have been described in northern Italy (Cremaschi 1987;
Billard 1995), in northeastern Spain (Mücher et al. 1990),
in southern Spain (Günster et al. 2001), in southern
Tunisia (Coudé-Gaussen & Rognon 1988), and in Israel
(Dan 1990). Coudé-Gaussen and Rognon (1988) and
Mücher et al. (1990) insist on the local origin of aeolian
sediments. Along shorelines, red layers consisting of
wind-reworked RMSs are frequently intercalated (Figure
1) with eolianites, but most geoscientists (e.g., Muhs
et al. 2010) considered them as being RMSs formed in
situ. Figures 1, 2, and 3 represent the most typical cases
of the relationship existing between eolianites and RMSs
on the Atlantic coast of Morocco. In Figure 1, a red
layer intercalated between 2 eolianites, which could be
considered as a RMS, is in fact a severely wind-eroded
RMS and was transported as red-coated sands in which
almost no in situ pedofeatures are present. In Figure 2,
only the very base of the section is an in situ RMS, whereas
the ground mass of the upper 3 B horizons consists of a
dense packing of rounded microaggregates, which must

200 µm

Figure 7. Thick, yellow, microlaminated clay feature in yellowish
brown argillic horizon on eolianites. Morocco, Atlantic coast,
vicinity of Rabat.


be interpreted as wind-winnowed RMS. Calcitic nodules
(not seen in the photograph) present in these B horizons,
especially in the IIIB, also indicate calcite-rich dust falls.
A thick, polyphased, weakly disturbed, dark red argillic
horizon (just its top is seen in the photograph), which
developed on the eolianites and is deeply karstified, is
truncated and covered by sands (Figure 3). These aeolian,
calcite-free sands were deposited during 2 episodes,
separated by a gravely layer. The upper sands are coated by
thin, rare, yellowish red clays. This clay illuviation phase
could be Holocene. These 3 photographs give an idea of
the complex history during the Quaternary of the Atlantic
coast of Morocco, during which have alternated phases of
the RMS genesis, some very marked as in Chaperon rouge
(Figure 3) and aeolian episodes, as well as an episode of
hydric erosion characterized by gravelly layers.
The fragmented illuvial clays within the ground mass
and even the absence of any illuvial features in most
ante-Holocene RMSs have to be related to this landscape
instability due to hydric erosion, but essentially to very
severe wind storms. We have suggested above that an
initial shock in the form of an outburst is responsible for
the soil disruption, followed by very severe wind storms
that displaced the disrupted soils and also by some heavy
rains responsible for the truncations. The hypothesis
that periglacial thixotropy was responsible for this soil
disruption (e.g., Scarciglia et al. 2003a, 2003b) must
consequently be abandoned. The worldwide distribution,
including the tropics, is a strong argument in favor of this
6.1. Soil-forming processes affecting RMS covers during
glacial intervals
The translocation of the silt fraction is characterized
by bleached tongues and at a microscopic level by silty
features, but most frequently by more or less regular
silty and clayey layers (Scarciglia et al. 2003a, 2003b).
According to Fedoroff et al. (1981), this translocation of
silt and silt and clay results from the rapid thaw of a thick
snow cover in the spring and consequently characterizes
a boreal climate without a deep soil frost rather than a
periglacial one with a permafrost. Such silty features in the
Mediterranean basin at sea level have never been observed
as associated with fossil ice wedges or even fossil ice lenses.
The accumulation of organic matter has been
observed in the form of gray to grayish brown Ah
horizons (Günster et al. 2001) and at a microscopic level
as dark brown to brownish black, thick, dusty, unlayered
infillings (Scarciglia et al. 2003a, 2003b). The chemical
and mineralogical compositions of these infillings have
never been microanalyzed. Under PolM, the dark color is
interpreted as being due to black carbon (Fedoroff et al.
2010). Guo (1990) identified such blackish infillings in

FEDOROFF and COURTY / Turkish J Earth Sci
loess in the Loess Plateau in China at the transition OISs
5 to 4. Other existing data on black carbon present in
sediments and soils were all obtained from bulk samples.
These data show an increase of black carbon during glacial
periods (e.g., Luo et al. 2001; Wang et al. 2005). In the
Mediterranean basin, Kühn et al. (2006) and Fedoroff et
al. (2010) did not relate these infillings to a precise phase
or episode; however, Günster et al. (2001) described
paleosols and sediments rich in organic matter due to
steppic vegetation, dated at OISs 5a and 5c, and Ferraro et
al. (2004) described 3 organic matter enriched paleosols
that could have formed during the interstadials of OISs 3
and 4. As a hypothesis, we consider that these infillings
testify to wildfires of high intensity based on the fact that
the feature is unlayered.
Redoximorphic features and facies characterizing soil
water logging are weakly developed during the last glacial.
According to Günster et al. (2001), impeded drainage
occurred during OISs 5a and 5c and a few times during OIS
2 in the Granada basin, which these authors explained by
permafrost. The extrapolation of the permafrost hypothesis
of Günster et al. (2001) to all soils with redoximorphic
characters in the Mediterranean basin does not seem
to be sound. Redoximorphic phases are a worldwide
phenomenon, including the tropics (e.g., Achyuthan &
Fedoroff 2008). In the Mediterranean basin, at least during
the Late Pleistocene, these phases occurred during glacial
intervals. These phases postdate the reworking episode
as redoximorphic features are always superimposed on
reworked red soil material. Consequently, we consider that
they correspond to a climatic phase of heavy precipitations,
during which the soil was water-saturated part of the year,
and as goethite is dominant during these phases, we also
have to suppose a weak seasonal temperature contrast.
Everyone presently agrees that the accretion of calcite
in RMSs was discontinuous and occurred independently
of rubefaction–illuviation (Ortiz et al. 2002; Bahia et
al. 2009). During the last glacial interval in southern
Spain, according to Günster et al. (2001) and Candy and
Black (2009), calcite accretion occurred during OIS 5e,
apparently immediately after the rubefaction–illuviation
phase. Recio Espejo et al. (2008) obtained, for 350 ky, a
deep calcic horizon, and for 8.9 ky, nodules present in the
Bt horizon. Dating calcite accretion phases is ambiguous.
Existing radiometric dates were frequently obtained
eventually on secondary and even tertiary crystallization.
The aeolian origin of calcite in RMSs is not accepted
unanimously and, consequently, we will consider it just
as a sound hypothesis. An aeolian origin of calcite means
severe wind storms that induce aeolian erosion in areas
rich in outcropping carbonate rocks, dust transportation,
and deposition, followed by the dissolution of calcitic
particles in RMS surface horizons and crystallization in

a subsurface horizon. Such calcitic accretion indicates
a climate in which evapotranspiration exceeds relative
Paleoclimatologists emphasize the temperature
fluctuations for which they presently have quite a precise
chronology, especially for the last cycle. Martrat et al.
(2004) considered that the climate in the Mediterranean
basin was predominantly maintained in interglacialinterstadial conditions, whereas the duration of glacial
intervals was much shorter. Some of the most prominent
events occurred over OISs 5 and 7, after prolonged warm
periods of high stability. Sanchez Goñi et al. (2002)
showed that in the western Mediterranean basin, rapid
(approximately 150 years) and synchronous terrestrial
and marine climatic changes occurred, paralleling the
Dansgaard–Oeschger cycle (Dansgaard et al. 1993) with an
amplification of the climatic signal during Heinrich events,
an extreme cooling of 10 °C, and a great dryness occurring
during H5 and H4. Sepulchre et al. (2007) confirmed the
aridity during H4 over the Iberian Peninsula. Research
performed on paleosols developed during glacial intervals
of course provide information about temperatures, but
also about soil water regimes and consequently about the
precipitation regime and environmental events such as
outbursts, severe wind storms, and wildfires for which we
do not have modern analogs.
A correlation of pedological phases and erosion–
soil disruption episodes registered in RMS covers and
in buried related paleosols, even for the last glacial with
environmental events identified by paleoclimatologists,
is presently almost impossible. Paleosols during glacial
intervals are supposed to develop during a warmer time
span, such as the interstadials (Günster et al. 2001; Ferraro
et al. 2004).
The work of Melki et al. (2010) and earlier publications
demonstrated that sapropels in the eastern Mediterranean
basin correspond to a  strong precipitation increase
that transformed the whole Mediterranean Sea into a
nonconcentration basin. Consequently, the hydromorphic
phases could be synchronous with the deposition of
7. Conclusions
RMSs are the result of 2 major soil-forming processes,
rubefaction and illuviation, occurring in soils in which
infiltration exceeds evapotranspiration, also inducing
carbonate dissolution and its lixiviation out of the profile.
Rubefaction results in an alteration of goethite into
hematite in surface horizons, which is distributed through
the whole profile by clay illuviation.
Most authors agree that RMSs were formed
discontinuously during periods of environmental stability,
i.e. interglacials. The behavior of RMS covers during glacial


FEDOROFF and COURTY / Turkish J Earth Sci
intervals is just beginning to be deciphered. A large part of
the features and facies formed during these intervals are
presently erased, but those remaining were not investigated
thoroughly and were in most cases misinterpreted.
Presently, from the point of view of soil covers, it is possible
to conclude that during these intervals: 1) episodes of
instability happened in the form of abrupt events during
which soils were eroded and disrupted; 2) important dust
falls, locally in the form of loess, occurred; and 3) various
pedogenic phases took place. The existing data do not
enable the establishment of a clear hierarchy between the
features and facies, witnesses of each of these episodes and
phases. RMS covers were partially and frequently totally
eroded, but the most striking phenomenon is the in situ
disruption of almost all pre-Holocene RMSs. The RMS
disruption is largely underestimated in the literature, which
leads one to consider disrupted RMSs as in situ developed
soils as well as red pedosediments. Consequently, various
soil-forming processes, e.g., self-mixing by shrink–swell,
were advanced to explain the absence of clay coatings in B
horizons of RMSs. During the glacial intervals, RMS covers
were also affected by dust falls, which are responsible for
the calcitic features and facies present in the RMSs of
subarid areas of the Mediterranean basin. The enrichment
of organic matter, eventually due to wildfires, has also been
mentioned during these intervals.
Redoximorphic features and facies exist in RMS
covers. The recent ones, weakly developed, occurred
with no doubt during the last glacial period, whereas the
environmental conditions of well-developed, earlier ones

have to be clarified.
The impact on Mediterranean soil covers of severe
cold episodes, which were supposed to be characterized
by permafrost, has been exaggerated. Features related to
permafrost have never been identified in RMS covers at
sea level; however, they appear at a rather low altitude in
the Mediterranean basin, e.g., 1000 m. At sea level, textural
features corresponding to a thick snow cover exist, but
without a deep soil frost.
Heinrich events are presently almost impossible to
establish for the correlation of episodes of soil instability
as well as pedogenic phases that occurred during glacial
intervals with OISs. Earlier pedogenic phases were utilized
to define interstadials with warmer periods during a glacial
period. As ice cores have shown that 24 interstadials can
be referred to as Dansgaard–Oeschger events during the
last glacial interval, a new correlation between these events
and the pedogenic phases has to be established.
This work shows also that RMS covers (including
buried soil–sediment sequences) contain novel data that
are not present (or are present in a different form) in ice
cores, lakes, and deep sea cores. The data in soil covers
concern not only mean temperatures and precipitations,
but also the thickness of the snow cover, outbursts, severe
wind storms, and wildfires. Unfortunately, investigations
performed on the memory preserved in surface RMSs and
in buried soil–sediment sequences of the Mediterranean
basin are far behind those on ice cores, lakes, and deep
sea cores. In the future, such investigations should be
undertaken, providing novel and exciting results.

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