US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Published in Quaternary International 196 (2009) 13–35.


The origin of red or reddish-brown, clay-rich, ‘‘terra rossa’’ soils on limestone has been debated for decades. A traditional qualitative explanation for their formation has been the accumulation of insoluble residues as the limestone is progressively dissolved over time. However, this mode of formation often requires unrealistic or impossible amounts of carbonated is solution. Therefore, where this mechanism is not viable and where local fluvial or colluvial inputs can be ruled out, an external source or sources must be involved in soil formation.