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Calcarosols [CA]


As the name suggests, the soils in this order are usually calcareous throughout the profile, often highly so. They constitute one of the most widespread and important groups of soils in southern Australia.

Distribution of Calcarosols in Australia.
Soil Profile (View type example photo of Supracalcic Calcarosol).


Soils that are calcareous throughout the solum - or calcareous at least directly below the A1 or Ap horizon, or a depth of 0.2 m (whichever is shallower). Carbonate accumulations must be judged to be pedogenic1 (either current or relict), and the soils do not have clear or abrupt textural B horizons. Hydrosols, Organosols and Vertosols are excluded.


A difficulty may arise in separating those Calcarosols that are not calcareous throughout from calcareous Kandosols and from Tenosols containing pedogenic carbonate. However, in the latter two soils it is usual for the carbonate to occur in the lower part of the B horizon, and not immediately below the A horizon. Even so, transitional cases will arise where it becomes a matter of judgement in to which order the particular soil is best placed. Similar transitions might occur between shallow Calcarosols and Arenic Rudosols overlying a layer of calcrete or limestone. Again, Calcareous Arenic Rudosols will occur where recent aeolian calcareous material has been deposited.

In dune landscapes, where these soils frequently occur, it is common to find evidence of post-European settlement deflation and layering of soil profiles caused by wind erosion and consequent deposition. Unless the surface depositional material is 0.3 m or more thick, it is ignored in the classification and treated as a phase. (see 'What do we classify?').



The calcareous classes above approximately correspond to those of Wetherby and Oades (1975) as follows: Hypocalcic - Class IV, Lithocalcic - Class III B and IIIC, Supracalcic - Class III B, Hypercalcic - Class III A, Calcic - Class 1 and IIIA.

In the Lithocalcic and Supracalcic classes the coarse fragments may be >0.2 m in size and soft carbonate may or may not be present.

Of the profiles classified, the Calcic and Hypercalcic suborders are the most common.

Great Groups

Shelly and Hypergypsic Calcarosols

More details of these soils are required for further subdivision.

Other Calcarosols

Not all great groups will be relevant for every suborder, for example, Rendic will be required only for the Hypercalcic suborder.


The following subgroups will not necessarily be applicable to all great groups of each suborder, and not all subgroups are mutually exclusive. The Supravescent and Hypervescent classes may also be Epihypersodic or Endohypersodic. However, the high content or absence of carbonate in the upper 0.1m is thought to have more influence on land use than high sodicity. A number of soils has been recorded as having a conspicuously bleached A2 horizon. In many cases, however, this may be a reflection of high contents of soft carbonate, hence this feature has not been used as a class differentia.

Family Criteria

Use of the term A horizon may be inappropriate for some of these soils because of either minimal development due to an arid environment, or common surface deflation or accumulation caused by wind. Hence it is thought better to use the term surface soil for texture and to delete the thickness criteria. In general, surface soil in this context will probably be in the range of 0.1-0.2 m in thickness. For the Calcarosols, a criterion is used to indicate the thickness above the upper boundary of the Bk horizon when present.

Thickness of soil above upper boundary of Bk horizon (when present)

Thin [A] : <0.1 m
Medium [B] : 0.1 - < 0.3 m
Thick [C] : 0.3 - 0.6 m
Very thick [D] : >0.6 m

Gravel of the surface and A1 horizon

Non-gravelly [E] : < 2%
Slightly gravelly [F] : 2 - < 10%
Gravelly [G] : 10 - < 20%
Moderately gravelly [H] : 20 - 50%
Very gravelly [I] : > 50%

Surface soil texture

Peaty [J] : see Peaty horizon
Sandy [K] : S-LS-CS (up to 10% clay)
Loamy [L] : SL-L (10-20% clay)
Clay loamy [M] : SCL-CL (20-35% clay)
Silty [N] : ZL-ZCL (25-35% clay and silt 25% or more)
Clayey [O] : LC-MC-HC (more than 35% clay)

B horizon maximum texture3

Sandy [K] : S-LS-CS (up to 10% clay)
Loamy [L] : SL-L (10-20% clay)
Clay loamy [M] : SCL-CL (20-35% clay)
Silty [N] : ZL-ZCL (25-35% clay and silt 25% or more)
Clayey [O] : LC-MC-HC (more than 35% clay)

Soil depth

Very shallow [T] : < 0.25 m
Shallow [U] : 0.25 - < 0.5 m
Moderate [V] : 0.5 - < 1.0 m
Deep [W] : 1.0 - < 1.5 m
Very deep [X] : 1.5 - 5 m
Giant [Y] : > 5 m

1 The carbonate is a result of soil-forming processes, in contrast to fragments of calcareous rock such as limestone. See also calcrete.

2 Based on numerous fine earth analyses by Primary Industries, South Australia.

3 This refers to the most clayey field texture category.

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