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Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine

, 6:7

First Online: 13 February 2010Received: 04 August 2009Accepted: 13 February 2010


BackgroundMayas living in southeast Mexico have used soils for millennia and provide thus a good example for understanding soil-culture relationships and for exploring the ways indigenous people name and classify the soils of their territory. This paper shows an attempt to organize the Maya soil knowledge into a soil classification scheme and compares the latter with the World Reference Base for Soil Resources WRB.

MethodsSeveral participative soil surveys were carried out in the period 2000-2009 with the help of bilingual Maya-Spanish-speaking farmers. A multilingual soil database was built with 315 soil profile descriptions.

ResultsOn the basis of the diagnostic soil properties and the soil nomenclature used by Maya farmers, a soil classification scheme with a hierarchic, dichotomous and open structure was constructed, organized in groups and qualifiers in a fashion similar to that of the WRB system. Maya soil properties were used at the same categorical levels as similar diagnostic properties are used in the WRB system.

ConclusionsThe Maya soil classification MSC is a natural system based on key properties, such as relief position, rock types, size and quantity of stones, color of topsoil and subsoil, depth, water dynamics, and plant-supporting processes. The MSC addresses the soil properties of surficial and subsurficial horizons, and uses plant communities as qualifier in some cases. The MSC is more accurate than the WRB for classifying Leptosols.

Electronic supplementary materialThe online version of this article doi:10.1186-1746-4269-6-7 contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

Francisco Bautista and J Alfred Zinck contributed equally to this work.

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Autor: Francisco Bautista - J Alfred Zinck


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