Geochemical variability of natural soils and reclaimed mine-spoil soils in the San Juan Basin, New Mexico

Professional Paper 1134-C
By:  and 



An inventory of total-and extractable-element concentrations in soils was made for three areas of the San Juan Basin in New Mexico: (1) the broad area likely to be affected by energy-related development. (2) an area of soils considered to have potential for use as topsoil in mined-land reclamation. and (3) an area of the San Juan coal mine that has been regraded. topsoiled, and revegetated. Maps made of concentrations of 16 elements in area 1 soils show no gradational pattern across the region. Further. these maps do not correspond to those showing geology or soil types. Sodic or saline problems, and a possible but unproven deficiency of zinc available to plants. may make some of the soils in this area undesirable for use as topsoil in mined-land reclamation. Taxonomic great groups of soil in this area cannot be distinguished because each great group tends to have a large within-group variability if compared to the between-group variability. In area 2 the major soils sampled were of the Sheppard. Shiprock. and Doak association. These soils are quite uniform in chemical composition and are not greatly saline or sodic. As in area 1 soils. zinc deficiency may cause a problem in revegetating most of these soils. It is difficult to distinguish soil taxonomic families by using their respective chemical compositions. because of small between-family variability. Topsoil from a reclaimed area of the San Juan mine (area 3) most closely resembles the chemical composition of natural C horizons of soil from area 1. Spoil material that has not been topsoiled is likely to cause sodic-and saline-related problems in revegetation and may cause boron toxicity in plants. Topsoiling has apparently ameliorated these potential problems for plant growth on mine spoil. Total and extractable concentrations for elements and other parameters for each area of the San Juan Basin provide background information for the evaluation of the chemical quality of soils in each area.

Study Area

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Geochemical variability of natural soils and reclaimed mine-spoil soils in the San Juan Basin, New Mexico
Series title Professional Paper
Series number 1134
Chapter C
DOI 10.3133/pp1134C
Year Published 1981
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Description iv, 39 p.
Country United States
State New Mexico
Other Geospatial San Juan Basin
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