Sources and distribution of arsenic in agricultural soils of Central Mexico

  • Gabriela A. ZanorEmail author
  • María Gabriela García
  • Luis Eduardo Venegas-Aguilera
  • Adriana Saldaña-Robles
  • Noé Saldaña-Robles
  • Oscar A. Martínez-Jaime
  • José Jesús N. Segoviano-Garfias
  • Luis F. Ramírez-Santoyo
Soils, Sec 3 • Remediation and Management of Contaminated or Degraded Lands • Research Article



The concentrations and distribution of arsenic (As) in two different soil types (Vertisols and Entisols) of Central Mexico impacted by mine activities and irrigation with As-rich groundwater are analyzed in order to determine their impact on the soil quality, and to contribute reliable data that may help to assess the environmental risk that represents the progressive accumulation of As in the arable soils of Guanajuato.

Materials and methods

Two Entisol and two Vertisol profiles located in the Guanajuato state (Mexico) were described and sampled from ~ 1.20-m-deep pits. Soils are irrigated with As-rich deep and shallow groundwaters that were sampled from irrigation boreholes. Additionally, a Vertisol profile located in a parcel not impacted by irrigation was sampled and used as a control soil. Minerals were identified by X-ray diffraction (XRD) and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) coupled with dispersive X-ray spectrometry (EDS). Geoaccumulation indexes (Igeo) were calculated to evaluate As enrichment with respect to a control soil and the Upper Continental Crust (UCC). Anions and cations of groundwater were analyzed by high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and by inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectroscopy (ICP-AES), respectively. As in soils was determined by ICP-AES.

Results and discussion

Near total As concentrations are higher in Entisols (mean As value = 7.20 mg/kg) than in Vertisols (mean As = 1.02 mg/kg). As concentrations in the control soil are lower (0.34 to 0.70 mg/kg). The in-depth distribution of As in Vertisol profiles reveals that the higher As concentrations are found in the uppermost horizons (10 cm) and they tend to decrease with depth. In Entisols, As concentrations do not follow a vertical trend. Igeo values of As indicate moderate to heavy As contamination in Vertisols and moderate contamination in Entisols. SEM-EDS analyses revealed the presence of some potential As-bearing minerals such as magnetite and abundant Fe oxides and Ti-Fe coatings precipitated onto feldspar grains, particularly in Entisols.


Irrigation of Vertisols with As-rich groundwater determines As concentrations in the uppermost horizons that exceed the natural background of the region (0.4 mg/kg). In depth, clay grain-sized particles inhibit the downward migration of As, while Fe oxides and organic matter scavenge As by adsorption. As concentrations in Entisols are higher, and the in-depth distribution of this element is controlled by periodic contributions of As-bearing minerals delivered from mine prospects located at the river’s catchments.


As adsorption As-rich irrigation water Fe oxides Entisols Geoaccumulation index Vertisols 



Special thanks to the owners of the sampled fields that supplied the soil samples. MGG is a member of CICyT in CONICET, the National Science Foundation of Argentina. LEVA wants to thank the Mexican Research Council (CONACYT) for receiving a scholarship for doing his master study. We are especially grateful to the anonymous reviewers for suggesting significant improvements to this manuscript.

Funding information

This research received a financial support by the Secretaría de Educación Pública (SEP) through the project PRODEP 2015–2016.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gabriela A. Zanor
    • 1
    Email author
  • María Gabriela García
    • 2
  • Luis Eduardo Venegas-Aguilera
    • 1
  • Adriana Saldaña-Robles
    • 3
  • Noé Saldaña-Robles
    • 3
  • Oscar A. Martínez-Jaime
    • 4
  • José Jesús N. Segoviano-Garfias
    • 1
  • Luis F. Ramírez-Santoyo
    • 4
  1. 1.Departamento de Ciencias Ambientales, División de Ciencias de la Vida (DICIVA), Campus Irapuato-SalamancaUniversidad de GuanajuatoGuanajuatoMexico
  2. 2.Centro de Investigaciones en Ciencias de la Tierra (CICTERRA)-CONICETUniversidad Nacional de CórdobaCórdobaArgentina
  3. 3.Departamento de Ingeniería Agrícola, División de Ciencias de la Vida (DICIVA), Campus Irapuato-SalamancaUniversidad de GuanajuatoGuanajuatoMexico
  4. 4.Departamento de Agronomía, División de Ciencias de la Vida (DICIVA), Campus Irapuato-SalamancaUniversidad de GuanajuatoGuanajuatoMexico

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