Bright orange or red subsoils are the result of a long period of wetting and drying of iron compounds that causes them to oxidise or ‘rust’. In the topsoil, these colours are masked by dark organic matter from decomposed plant and microbial material. This yellow-brown subsoil from Karori Road, Wellington, could have formed in the present climate. However, the lower pink-red horizon, which appears to have been buried by the surface material, would have required a more tropical climate to develop. It may be up to 500,000 years old.
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Photograph by Alastair McLean
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