Urban Ecosystem Carbon Study

How does urban landscape management affect carbon storage in soil?

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Welcome to the Urban Ecosystem Carbon Study Site.  If you are a homeowner who has been contacted and wish to participate in this research, thank you for your interest!  Participation in the study has been designed to take very little of your time:  Please take the survey, and contact us to arrange a time that we may sample the soil on your property.  The soil sampling procedure will not damage your lawn and takes only a few minutes to conduct. 

NEW Publication: Campbell, C.D., J.R. Seiler, P.E. Wiseman, B.D. Strahm, and J.F. Munsell. 2014. Soil Carbon Dynamics in Residential Lawns Converted from Appalachian Mixed Oak Stands. Forests. 5(3): 425-438.

Project Summary

HouseThis project, which began in October 2009, seeks to understand the effects of land use change on soil productivity and carbon storage in the urbanized landscape.  We are interested in measuring carbon in soils of previously forested areas that have been developed for residential use.

Currently in the United States, it is estimated that turf grass-dominated urban landscapes occupy 101,788 square miles (± 22,276 mi2), three times the land area of any irrigated crop (Milesi 2002).  The significant amount of land area managed as turf grass ground cover makes it a critical ecosystem to understand, as it replaces large areas of native vegetation.  Research indicates that a sustainably managed lawn can offer environmental services including air quality improvement, reduced stormwater runoff, and carbon sequestration.  Increased carbon storage in turf grass ecosystems may result in improved productivity, as well as removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, reducing the effects of climate change.  This investigation seeks to explore the mechanisms which affect carbon storage in turf grass and will answer the following questions:

  • How does land use change from forest to urban neighborhood affect carbon sequestration over time?
  • How do different lawn management practices (e.g. mowing, fertilizing, watering, aerating) affect levels of soil carbon? 
  • What social factors drive lawn management practices?
  • What management practices are most effective at increasing carbon storage in turf grass lawns?

Website update/design: TSS 1/19/10