The Imperative of Soil Preservation in Mexico

Mexico, boasting 26 of the 32 global soil groups, faces a crisis with 64% of its soil degraded. This degradation threatens vital ecosystem services, from sustenance to water sources. The National University's PUEIS initiative fosters collaboration to address this challenge.

The Imperative of Soil Preservation in Mexico
Mario Guevara Santamaría, at the forefront of the Soil Mapping and Monitoring project, mapping out regions for in-depth soil studies. Photo by Dylan de Jonge on Unsplash

Mexico, blessed with a rich soil diversity, finds itself at a crossroads. It's a nation that boasts 26 of the globally recognized 32 soil groups. Yet, this treasure trove is threatened. Blanca Prado Pano, from the esteemed UNAM institutions, recently highlighted that a staggering 64% of Mexican soil is degraded. The question that thus arises is: Why should we be concerned?

The Roots of Soil Diversity

“Soil-forming factors are a complex interplay of rocks, sediments, climate, landscape positioning, and the myriad activities of countless organisms,” explains Pano. She underscores how varied these elements are in Mexico. For instance, the “parent materials,” i.e., rock and sediments, greatly differ across the nation's expanse. The intricate dance of these factors determines the health of the soil, which directly impacts agriculture, water sources, and ecosystems.

The fact that Mexico recognizes 26 global soil groups is notable. This classification, as Pano elucidates, is based on the world reference base system for soil resources. However, comprehending the health and condition of these soils is an intricate endeavor. An alarming revelation is that more than half of Mexico's vast territory confronts degradation challenges. This is not just a national concern but a global one. Globally, one-third of our soils are in peril.

The Price of Soil Degradation

Soils are more than just dirt under our feet; they're lifelines. Pano paints a vivid picture of soil's multifaceted role: from our sustenance to the clothes on our backs and the fundamental functioning of terrestrial systems. The degradation of this precious resource isn't just an environmental concern but a blow to its pivotal ecosystem services. When soil loses its health, its capacity to nourish and support life diminishes.

Such global degradation isn't an uncontested slide into decay. Numerous global initiatives are striving to rejuvenate and maintain soil health. Mexico, too, isn't a passive spectator.

A Collaborative Response

In 2021, recognizing the gravity of the situation, the National University inaugurated the PUEIS – an ambitious initiative designed to foster interdisciplinary academic collaboration. The overarching objective? To address the complex, multifaceted challenges, soil degradation presents, which requires not just scientific insight but societal involvement.

Under the aegis of PUEIS, a formidable Allied Academics team was assembled. Comprising 54 scientists from 45 UNAM entities, their mission is threefold: research, educate, and promote soil science.

Researchers from UNAM's PUEIS initiative analyzing soil samples, highlighting Mexico's diverse soil groups.
Researchers from UNAM's PUEIS initiative analyzing soil samples, highlighting Mexico's diverse soil groups. Photo by Bruno Pereira on Unsplash

Mapping the Soil

Among the exciting ventures under PUEIS is the Soil Mapping and Monitoring project, steered by academic Mario Guevara Santamaría from the National University's Geosciences Center. He echoes the sentiment that soil science is intrinsically interdisciplinary, cutting across political, social, and public domains.

Central to this project is the development of the Soil Database. This repository aims to collate and enhance the quantity, quality, and accessibility of soil data in Mexico. Such data-driven insights would influence public policies and strategies, shaping Mexico's approach to soil conservation.

Guevara Santamaría notes that while there are established entities, like the National Institute of Statistics and Geography, gathering soil data, the vastness of Mexico, spanning two million square kilometers, means that capturing real-time data remains challenging. Yet, the commitment is clear: Document, systematize, and make this vital data available for all.


Mexico's soil diversity is a national treasure. Its degradation is not just an environmental concern but a clarion call for immediate action. With concerted efforts like PUEIS and collaborations across disciplines, the nation is paving a way forward. The hope? To rejuvenate its soil, ensuring its health for generations to come.