Artificial chinampas soils of Mexico City: their properties and salinization hazards .

Pavel Krasilnikov, Norma Eugenia García Calderón, Rosalía Ramos Bello, Héctor Manuel Ortega Escobar


The chinampas agriculture is a traditional land use practice in the Valley of Mexico since Pre-Hispanic time. The chinampas soils were constructed by excavation of lake sediments that resulted in the creation of a system of islands separated by channels. The agricultural productivity of these artificial soils was high; also the land use practices included forestry, fish breeding and hunting. Nowadays, the chinampas soils are affected by excessive salinity. We studied 10 representative soil profiles in the chinampas zone of Mexico City in order to characterize their properties and origin, to provide their classification, and to evaluate soil salinization, vertical distribution of the salts and their chemical composition. The soils are characterized by a layered structure, uniform dark grey colour, irregular vertical distribution of organic carbon and clay, and high percentage of carbon. Some soils show an increase in organic matter with depth, and other profiles have maximum organic matter content in the surficial layers and in the subsoil. The dynamics of sedimentation resulted in the decrease in organic matter in the upper layers of lacustrine sediments, because of recent increase in erosion rate and consequent increase in the proportion of mineral particles in the sediments. Most probably high organic matter content in surficial layers of some soils is due to excavation and accumulation of organic-rich subsoil material in the course of digging the channels. The concentration of soluble salts in superficial horizons, expressed as electric conductivity, varies in a wide range from 5 to almost 50 dS·m-1. The salts concentrate mainly in the superficial layers of soils. The abundance of the cations of soluble salts is Na+>Mg2+>Ca2+>K+ and that of the anions is SO42->Cl->HCO3->CO32-. The alkaline reaction of soils is caused by exchangeable Na rather than by free sodium carbonates. The restoration of chinampas requires a complex approach, combining soil, water and ecosystems remediation.
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