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Soil with broken rock fragments overlying bedrock, Sandside Bay, Caithness Rockhead at Sandside Bay, Caithness, Scotland.jpg
Soil with broken rock fragments overlying bedrock, Sandside Bay, Caithness
Soil profile with bedrock labeled R Horizons.gif
Soil profile with bedrock labeled R

Bedrock in geology is the lithified rock that lies under loose softer material called regolith within the surface of the Earth's crust or other terrestrial planets.

Geology The study of the composition, structure, physical properties, and history of Earths components, and the processes by which they are shaped.

Geology is an earth science concerned with the solid Earth, the rocks of which it is composed, and the processes by which they change over time. Geology can also include the study of the solid features of any terrestrial planet or natural satellite such as Mars or the Moon. Modern geology significantly overlaps all other earth sciences, including hydrology and the atmospheric sciences, and so is treated as one major aspect of integrated earth system science and planetary science.

Lithification is the process in which sediments compact under pressure, expel connate fluids, and gradually become solid rock. Essentially, lithification is a process of porosity destruction through compaction and cementation. Lithification includes all the processes which convert unconsolidated sediments into sedimentary rocks. Petrifaction, though often used as a synonym, is more specifically used to describe the replacement of organic material by silica in the formation of fossils.

Rock (geology) A naturally occurring solid aggregate of one or more minerals or mineraloids

A rock is any naturally occurring solid mass or aggregate of minerals or mineraloid matter. It is categorized by the minerals included, its chemical composition and the way in which it is formed. Rocks are usually grouped into three main groups: igneous rocks, metamorphic rocks and sedimentary rocks. Rocks form the Earth's outer solid layer, the crust.


Components of bedrock

Bedrock essentially refers to the substructure composed of hard rock exposed or buried at the earth's surface; an exposed portion of bedrock is often called an outcrop. Bedrock may have various chemical and mineralogical compositions and can be igneous, metamorphic or sedimentary in origin. The bedrock may be overlain by broken and weathered regolith which includes soil and the subsoil.[ citation needed ]

Outcrop visible exposure of bedrock or ancient superficial deposits on the surface of the Earth

An outcrop or rocky outcrop is a visible exposure of bedrock or ancient superficial deposits on the surface of the Earth.

Igneous rock Rock formed through the cooling and solidification of magma or lava

Igneous rock, or magmatic rock, is one of the three main rock types, the others being sedimentary and metamorphic. Igneous rock is formed through the cooling and solidification of magma or lava. The magma can be derived from partial melts of existing rocks in either a planet's mantle or crust. Typically, the melting is caused by one or more of three processes: an increase in temperature, a decrease in pressure, or a change in composition. Solidification into rock occurs either below the surface as intrusive rocks or on the surface as extrusive rocks. Igneous rock may form with crystallization to form granular, crystalline rocks, or without crystallization to form natural glasses. Igneous rocks occur in a wide range of geological settings: shields, platforms, orogens, basins, large igneous provinces, extended crust and oceanic crust.

Metamorphic rock Rock which was subjected to heat and pressure causing profound physical or chemical change

Metamorphic rocks arise from the transformation of existing rock types, in a process called metamorphism, which means "change in form". The original rock (protolith) is subjected to heat and pressure, causing profound physical or chemical change. The protolith may be a sedimentary, igneous, or existing metamorphic rock.

Engineering geology

The surface of the bedrock beneath the soil cover (regolith) is also known as rockhead in engineering geology, [1] [2] and its identification by digging, drilling or geophysical methods is an important task in most civil engineering projects. Superficial deposits (also known as drift) can be extremely thick, such that the bedrock lies hundreds of meters below the surface. [3]

Engineering geology Application of geology to engineering practice

Engineering geology is the application of the geology to engineering study for the purpose of assuring that the geological factors regarding the location, design, construction, operation and maintenance of engineering works are recognized and accounted for. Engineering geologists provide geological and geotechnical recommendations, analysis, and design associated with human development and various types of structures. The realm of the engineering geologist is essentially in the area of earth-structure interactions, or investigation of how the earth or earth processes impact human made structures and human activities.

Geophysics physics of the Earth and its vicinity

Geophysics is a subject of natural science concerned with the physical processes and physical properties of the Earth and its surrounding space environment, and the use of quantitative methods for their analysis. The term geophysics sometimes refers only to the geological applications: Earth's shape; its gravitational and magnetic fields; its internal structure and composition; its dynamics and their surface expression in plate tectonics, the generation of magmas, volcanism and rock formation. However, modern geophysics organizations use a broader definition that includes the water cycle including snow and ice; fluid dynamics of the oceans and the atmosphere; electricity and magnetism in the ionosphere and magnetosphere and solar-terrestrial relations; and analogous problems associated with the Moon and other planets.

Civil engineering engineering discipline specializing in design, construction and maintenance of the built environment

Civil engineering is a professional engineering discipline that deals with the design, construction, and maintenance of the physical and naturally built environment, including public works such as roads, bridges, canals, dams, airports, sewerage systems, pipelines, structural components of buildings, and railways.

Weathering of bedrock

Bedrock when exposed or within the subsurface may experience weathering and erosion by external factors. Weathering may be physical or chemical and alters the structure of the rock and may cause it to erode and or alter over time based on the interactions between the mineralogy and its interactions. Bedrock may also experience subsurface weathering at its upper boundary, forming saprolite. [4]

Weathering Breaking down of rocks, soil and minerals as well as artificial materials through contact with the Earths atmosphere, biota and waters

Weathering is the breaking down of rocks, soil, and minerals as well as wood and artificial materials through contact with the Earth's atmosphere, water, and biological organisms. Weathering occurs in situ, that is, in the same place, with little or no movement, and thus should not be confused with erosion, which involves the movement of rocks and minerals by agents such as water, ice, snow, wind, waves and gravity and then being transported and deposited in other locations.

Saprolite Chemically weathered rock

Saprolite is a chemically weathered rock. Saprolites form in the lower zones of soil profiles and represent deep weathering of the bedrock surface. In most outcrops its color comes from ferric compounds. Deeply weathered profiles are widespread on the continental landmasses between latitudes 35°N and 35°S.

Geologic map

A geologic map of an area will usually show the distribution of differing bedrock types, rock that would be exposed at the surface if all soil or other superficial deposits were removed. [5]

Geologic map special-purpose map made to show geological features

A geologic map or geological map is a special-purpose map made to show geological features. Rock units or geologic strata are shown by color or symbols to indicate where they are exposed at the surface. Bedding planes and structural features such as faults, folds, foliations, and lineations are shown with strike and dip or trend and plunge symbols which give these features' three-dimensional orientations.

Soil mixture of organic matter, minerals, gases, liquids, and organisms that together support life

Soil is a mixture of organic matter, minerals, gases, liquids, and organisms that together support life. Earth's body of soil, called the pedosphere, has four important functions:

Related Research Articles

Tor (rock formation) Large, free-standing rock outcrop that rises abruptly from the surrounding smooth and gentle slopes of a rounded hill summit or ridge crest

A tor, which is also known by geomorphologists as either a castle koppie or kopje, is a large, free-standing rock outcrop that rises abruptly from the surrounding smooth and gentle slopes of a rounded hill summit or ridge crest. In the South West of England, the term is commonly also used for the hills themselves – particularly the high points of Dartmoor in Devon and Bodmin Moor in Cornwall.

Regolith A layer of loose, heterogeneous superficial deposits covering solid rock

Regolith is a layer of loose, heterogeneous superficial deposits covering solid rock. It includes dust, soil, broken rock, and other related materials and is present on Earth, the Moon, Mars, some asteroids, and other terrestrial planets and moons.

Spheroidal weathering

Spheroidal weathering is a form of chemical weathering that affects jointed bedrock and results in the formation of concentric or spherical layers of highly decayed rock within weathered bedrock that is known as saprolite. When saprolite is exposed by physical erosion, these concentric layers peel (spall) off as concentric shells much like the layers of a peeled onion. Within saprolite, spheroidal weathering often creates rounded boulders, known as corestones or woolsack, of relatively unweathered rock. Spheroidal weathering is also called onion skin weathering,concentric weathering,spherical weathering, or woolsack weathering.

Sinus Meridiani albedo feature on Mars

Sinus Meridiani is an albedo feature on Mars stretching east-west just south of that planet's equator. It was named by the French astronomer Camille Flammarion in the late 1870s.

The pedosphere is the outermost layer of the Earth that is composed of soil and subject to soil formation processes. It exists at the interface of the lithosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere. The pedosphere is the skin of the Earth and only develops when there is a dynamic interaction between the atmosphere, biosphere, lithosphere and the hydrosphere. The pedosphere is the foundation of terrestrial life on Earth.

Parent material is the underlying geological material in which soil horizons form. Soils typically inherit a great deal of structure and minerals from their parent material, and, as such, are often classified based upon their contents of consolidated or unconsolidated mineral material that has undergone some degree of physical or chemical weathering and the mode by which the materials were most recently transported.

Rock cycle Transitions through geologic time among the three main rock types: sedimentary, metamorphic, and igneous

The rock cycle is a basic concept in geology that describes transitions through geologic time among the three main rock types: sedimentary, metamorphic, and igneous. Each rock type is altered when it is forced out of its equilibrium conditions. For example, an igneous rock such as basalt may break down and dissolve when exposed to the atmosphere, or melt as it is subducted under a continent. Due to the driving forces of the rock cycle, plate tectonics and the water cycle, rocks do not remain in equilibrium and change as they encounter new environments. The rock cycle explains how the three rock types are related to each other, and how processes change from one type to another over time. This cyclical aspect makes rock change a geologic cycle and, on planets containing life, a biogeochemical cycle.


Palagonite is an alteration product from the interaction of water with volcanic glass of chemical composition similar to basalt. Palagonite can also result from the interaction between water and basalt melt. The water flashes to steam on contact with the hot lava and the small fragments of lava react with the steam to form the light colored palagonite tuff cones common in areas of basaltic eruptions in contact with water. An example is found in the pyroclastic cones of the Galapagos Islands. Charles Darwin recognized the origin of these cones during his visit to the islands. Palagonite can also be formed by a slower weathering of lava into palagonite, resulting in a thin, yellow-orange rind on the surface of the rock. The process of conversion of lava to palagonite is called palagonitization.

Exploration geophysics is an applied branch of geophysics and economic geology, which uses physical methods, such as seismic, gravitational, magnetic, electrical and electromagnetic at the surface of the Earth to measure the physical properties of the subsurface, along with the anomalies in those properties. It is most often used to detect or infer the presence and position of economically useful geological deposits, such as ore minerals; fossil fuels and other hydrocarbons; geothermal reservoirs; and groundwater reservoirs.

A lithoautotroph or chemolithoautotroph is a microbe which derives energy from reduced compounds of mineral origin. Lithoautotrophs are a type of lithotrophs with autotrophic metabolic pathways. Lithoautotrophs are exclusively microbes; macrofauna do not possess the capability to use mineral sources of energy. Most lithoautotrophs belong to the domain Bacteria, while some belong to the domain Archaea. For lithoautotrophic bacteria, only inorganic molecules can be used as energy sources. The term "Lithotroph" is from Greek lithos meaning "rock" and trōphos (τροφοσ) meaning "consumer"; literally, it may be read "eaters of rock". Many lithoautotrophs are extremophiles, but this is not universally so.

Laterite A soil and rock type rich in iron and aluminium

Laterite is a soil and rock type rich in iron and aluminium and is commonly considered to have formed in hot and wet tropical areas. Nearly all laterites are of rusty-red coloration, because of high iron oxide content. They develop by intensive and prolonged weathering of the underlying parent rock. Tropical weathering (laterization) is a prolonged process of chemical weathering which produces a wide variety in the thickness, grade, chemistry and ore mineralogy of the resulting soils. The majority of the land area containing laterites is between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn.

Composition of Mars Branch of the Geology of Mars

The composition of Mars covers the branch of the geology of Mars that describes the make-up of the planet Mars.

Residuum is often used to refer to the soil and subsoil that forms as the result of long weathering over carbonate rocks bedrock. It is defined primarily as “the unconsolidated weathered at least partly, mineral material that has accumulated as consolidated rocks disintegrated in place. It is a type of soil parent material which has formed in place of origin. This distinguishes residuum from most other types of parent material. Parent material is classified by mode of transport.

An etchplain is a plain where the bedrock has been subject to considerable "etching" or subsurface weathering. Etchplanation is the process forming etchplains. Contrary to what the name might suggest, etchplains are seldom completely flat and usually display some relief, as weathering of the bedrock does not advance uniformly. This means that weathering is unrelated to the flatness which might be derivative of various other processes of planation including peneplanation and pediplanation. Erosion of etchplains can result in the exposure of inselbergs such as bornhardt and tors. Generally the topography exposed at a stripped etchplain, that is an etch surface, after erosion of regolith is one with many irregularities as result of structurally defined areas of rock strength.

Nubbin (landform) A small and gentle hill consisting a bedrock core dotted with rounded residual blocks.

In geomorphology a nubbin is a small and gentle hill consisting a bedrock core dotted with rounded residual blocks. The blocks derive from disintegrated and weathered bedrock layers. In particular it is assumed that the boulders of the nubbins are the remnants of the outer one or two exfoliation shells that weathered underground, albeit some weathering can continue to occur once the boulders are exposed on surface.

The geology of Eswatini formed beginning 3.6 billion years ago, in the Archean Eon of the Precambrian. Eswatini is the only country entirely underlain by the Kaapvaal Craton, one of the oldest pieces of stable continental crust and the only craton regarded as "pristine" by geologists, other than the Yilgarn Craton in Australia. As such, the country has very ancient granite, gneiss and in some cases sedimentary rocks from the Archean into the Proterozoic, overlain by sedimentary rocks and igneous rocks formed during the last 541 million years of the Phanerozoic as part of the Karoo Supergroup. Intensive weathering has created thick zones of saprolite and heavily weathered soils.

Astropedology is the study of very ancient paleosols and meteorites relevant to the origin of life and different planetary soil systems. It is a branch of soil science (pedology) concerned with soils of the distant geologic past and of other planetary bodies to understand our place in the universe. A geologic definition of soil is “a material at the surface of a planetary body modified in place by physical, chemical or biological processes”. Soils are sometimes defined by biological activity but can also be defined as planetary surfaces altered in place by biologic, chemical, or physical processes. By this definition, the question for Martian soils and paleosols becomes, were they alive? Astropedology symposia are a new focus for scientific meetings on soil science. Advancements in understanding the chemical and physical mechanisms of pedogenesis on other planetary bodies in part led the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) in 2017 to update the definition of soil to: "The layer(s) of generally loose mineral and/or organic material that are affected by physical, chemical, and/or biological processes at or near the planetary surface and usually hold liquids, gases, and biota and support plants".


  1. Price, David George (2009). "The Basis of Engineering Geology". In de Freitas, Michael H. (ed.). Engineering Geology: Principles and Practice. Springer. p. 16. ISBN   978-3540292494.
  2. McLean, A.C.; Gribble, C.D. (9 September 1985). Geology for Civil Engineers (Second ed.). CRC Press. p. 113. ISBN   978-0419160007.
  3. Swinford, E. Mac (2004). "What the glaciers left behind—the drift-thickness map of Ohio" (PDF). Ohio Geology. No. 1. Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Geological Survey. pp. 1, 3–5. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2 October 2012. Retrieved 12 September 2012.
  4. Lidmar-Bergström, Karna; Olsson, Siv; Olvmo, Mats (January 1997). "Palaeosurfaces and associated saprolites in southern Sweden". Geological Society, London, Special Publications. 120 (1): 95–124. Bibcode:1997GSLSP.120...95L. doi:10.1144/GSL.SP.1997.120.01.07 . Retrieved 21 April 2010.
  5. "Digital Geology – Bedrock geology theme". British Geological Survey. Archived from the original on 13 December 2009. Retrieved 12 November 2009.

Further reading

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The Encyclopædia Britannica, formerly published by Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., is a general knowledge English-language encyclopaedia. It was written by about 100 full-time editors and more than 4,000 contributors. The 2010 version of the 15th edition, which spans 32 volumes and 32,640 pages, was the last printed edition.