, Volume 8, Issue 3-4, pp 251-273

Spatial variation in soil inorganic nitrogen across an arid urban ecosystem

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We explored variations in inorganic soil nitrogen (N) concentrations across metropolitan Phoenix, Arizona, and the surrounding desert using a probability-based synoptic survey. Data were examined using spatial statistics on the entire region, as well as for the desert and urban sites separately. Concentrations of both NO3-N and NH4-N were markedly higher and more heterogeneous amongst urban compared to desert soils. Regional variation in soil NO3-N concentration was best explained by latitude, land use history, population density, along with percent cover of impervious surfaces and lawn, whereas soil NH4-N concentrations were related to only latitude and population density. Within the urban area, patterns in both soil NO3-N and NH4-N were best predicted by elevation, population density and type of irrigation in the surrounding neighborhood. Spatial autocorrelation of soil NO3-N concentrations explained 49% of variation among desert sites but was absent between urban sites. We suggest that inorganic soil N concentrations are controlled by a number of ‘local’ or ‘neighborhood’ human-related drivers in the city, rather than factors related to an urban-rural gradient.