Very few area-representative soil geochemical data exist for the southern hemisphere. A sub-continental scale (1.7 × 106 km2) geochemical sampling expedition in northeastern Brazil delivered 101 representative composite soil samples (30–50 cm depth) for non-anthropogenically influenced areas (mainly pasture land). Major, minor, and selected trace elements, determined by WD-XRF, are discussed with respect to lithology, soil type, biome type, climate and land use. These element concentrations vary up to two orders of magnitude, except for Si (factor ≅ 2.6). Silicon is strongly enriched compared to global averages, whereas most other components show a considerable deficiency. Significant deviations occur compared to results obtained from southern Brazil and from Australia – examples for the few representative data from the southern hemisphere. Anthropogenic influences appear negligible. All environmental parameters, except for land use, play an active role in shaping the geochemical composition. Lithology appears to be partly decoupled from the soils due to their age. The soil composition reflects soil type, biome type, and weathering influences. Most plant nutrients, despite their absolute depletion, show the highest values in Caatinga soils, and the lowest in Atlantic Forest soils. The new data form a robust and valuable tool to support future land use management.

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cover image Geochemistry: Exploration, Environment, Analysis
Geochemistry: Exploration, Environment, Analysis
Volume 12Number 3August 2012
Pages: 197 - 209


Received: 19 August 2010
Accepted: 11 July 2011
Published online: 1 August 2012
Published: August 2012


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  1. low-density
  2. soil geochemical mapping
  3. major and minor elements
  4. trace elements
  5. lithology
  6. soil type
  7. climate
  8. biome
  9. land use



Jörg Matschullat* [email protected]
Interdisciplinary Environmental Research Centre, TU Bergakademie Freiberg, Brennhausgasse 14, D-09599 Freiberg, Germany
Silke Höfle
Interdisciplinary Environmental Research Centre, TU Bergakademie Freiberg, Brennhausgasse 14, D-09599 Freiberg, Germany
Juscimar da Silva
Embrapa Vegetable. Rodovia BR 060, km 09, Brasília/Anápolis, Caixa Postal 218, CEP 70359-270, Gama, DF, Brazil
Jaime Mello
Federal University of Viçosa, Department of Soil Science, Av. P. H. Rolfs, s/n. CEP 36570-000 Viçosa, MG, Brazil
Germano Melo, Jr.
Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte (UFRN), Department of Geology, Lagoa Nova, Caixa Postal 1639, CEP 59072-970, Natal, RN, Brazil
Alexander Pleßow
Interdisciplinary Environmental Research Centre, TU Bergakademie Freiberg, Brennhausgasse 14, D-09599 Freiberg, Germany
Clemens Reimann
Norwegian Geological Survey, Leiv Eriksson vei 39, N-7002 Trondheim, Norway


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