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A procedure is described for making relatively undistorted, oriented microtome sections of peat for microscopic analysis. This simple procedure results in a permanent sample from which data can be produced that are precise, statistically reproducible, and easily transmitted and compared with data from other sources.
Highly accurate fiber-to-matrix ratios, porosities, and mineral contents can be quickly and easily determined from area point-counts of these peat sections. The terms fibric, hemic, and sapric, which have been widely used in the United States for describing peats, can be very precisely applied to peat samples in which fiber contents are determined in this way.
Color and translucency of peatified tissues can be measured from unstained microtome sections; or microtome sections may be differentially stained to bring out chemical or physical difference between tissues at different levels. Optical birefringence and fluorescence are two characteristics of peat tissues which can also be accurately measured. Both can be related to source substances and degree of decomposition.
This microtome sectioning technique has been used to describe and classify peats from the Everglades-Mangrove Region of Florida, the Okefenokee Swamp of Georgia, the Snuggedy Swamp of South Carolina, and the Albemarle-Pamlico Peninsular Swamps of North Carolina. The technique worked equally well on peats ranging in physical characteristics from coarsely-fibrous or woody (fibric) to finely-granular (sapric).
peat, microtome, fiber, hemic, sapric
Professor of Geology, University of South CarolinaLos Alamos National Laboratory, ColumbiaLos Alamos, S.C.N.M.