Rapid Development of Ferricretes on a Subtropical Valley Side Slope
Ferricretes can be formed along some valley-side slopes in the southeastern United States coastal plain as a consequence of erosional exposure of zones of iron precipitation in areas of groundwater discharge. This mode of ferricrete formation was demonstrated due to the recession of estuarine shoreline bluffs after hurricanes in 1996. Iron-precipitation zones exposed by bluff retreat at Flanner Beach, North Carolina in 1996 had formed indurated ferricretes by 1998. This confirms the valley-side groundwater discharge model of ferricrete formation, and shows that, once the zone of iron precipitation is exposed, ferricrete can form in less than two years. The newly formed ferricretes also allow the identification of five distinct stages in their formation: (1) iron precipitation in the zone of water table fluctuation; (2) the formation of brittle iron-cemented layers; (3) exposure by erosion or mass wasting and the first stage of hardening; (4) further hardening into indurated ferricrete; and (5) formation of limonite ferricretes, and impregnation with manganese oxides. The results from Flanner Beach show that the process may proceed from stages two and three to four and five in less than two years, suggesting that only short periods of stability following erosion or mass wasting episodes are necessary to allow ferricrete formation.
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