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Buried solutions: How Maya urban life substantiates soil connectivity

Evans, DL; Vis, BN; Dunning, NP; Graham, E; Isendahl, C; (2021) Buried solutions: How Maya urban life substantiates soil connectivity. Geoderma , 387 , Article 114925. 10.1016/j.geoderma.2020.114925. Green open access

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Abstract

Soils are a pivot of sustainable development. Yet, urban planning decisions persist in compromising the usability of the urban soils resource. Urban land cover expansion to accommodate an increasing population results in soil sealing. Concealment of and physical obstructions to soils prevent urban populations from engaging with their soil dependency. The concept of soil connectivity recognises that nurturing mutually beneficial soil–society relations is an essential dimension for achieving soil security. The concentrated populations of urban environments acutely require productive soil–society relations and offer the greatest potential for enhancing soil connectivity. Soil connectivity remains notably under-researched, however, resulting in deficient evidence to substantiate exactly how soil connectivity can contribute to sustaining urban life. The entanglement of soil and urban development has been critical throughout history, but seldom recognised in soil security discourse. We review the manifestation of effective soil connectivity in Precolumbian lowland Maya tropical urbanism. Archaeological evidence reveals, first, that lowland Maya urban settlement patterns largely preserved the availability, proximity, and accessibility of soils in the subdivision and configuration of urban open space. Second, Maya urban life included practices that proactively contributed to the formation of soils by adding to the stock of soils and improving beneficial soil properties of the thin and often nutrient-poor soils resulting from the regionally dominant karstic lithology. Third, a range of Maya landscape modifications and engineering practices enabled the preservation and protection of soils within urban environments. We derive evidence-based insights on an urban tradition that endured for well over two millennia by incorporating intensive soil–society relationships to substantiate the concept of soil connectivity. Inspiring urban planning to stimulate soil connectivity through enhancing the engagement with soils in urban life would promote soil security.

Type: Article
Title: Buried solutions: How Maya urban life substantiates soil connectivity
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.geoderma.2020.114925
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geoderma.2020.114925
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.
Keywords: Soil connectivity; Urban soil security; Soil sealing; Maya urbanism; Applied archaeology; Urban sustainability
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Institute of Archaeology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Institute of Archaeology > Institute of Archaeology Gordon Square
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10135731
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