, Volume 187, Issue 4, pp 1107–1118 | Cite as

Soil carbon and nitrogen accumulation in residential lawns of the Salt Lake Valley, Utah

  • Rose M. SmithEmail author
  • Jeb C. Williamson
  • Diane E. Pataki
  • James Ehleringer
  • Philip Dennison
Special Topic


Urban lawn ecosystems are widespread across the United States, with fertilization rates commonly exceeding plant nitrogen (N) uptake rates. While urban soils have been shown to accumulate C and N over time, the long-term balance of N inputs and losses from lawn soils remains largely uncertain. We sampled residential lawn soils aged 7–100 years in the Salt Lake City metropolitan area as a means of inferring changes in total nitrogen (TN) content, organic carbon (OC) content, C:N ratio, and δ15N of bulk soil over time. Core-integrated (0–40 cm) TN and OC stocks increased linearly by 2.39 g N m−2 year−1 and 29.8 g OC m−2 year−1 over the 100-year chronosequence. TN and OC percent were also negatively correlated with elevation. Multiple linear regression models including housing age and elevation as covariates, explained 68 and 62% of variability in TN and OC stocks respectively. δ15N increased with housing age, soil depth, and clay content, suggesting N removal over time, especially in poorly drained soils. We quantified potential hydrologic and gaseous N losses over time by comparing observed N accumulation to different historic fertilization scenarios. Modeling and isotopic results suggest that, while soil N has accumulated over time, the majority of N added to lawns in the Salt Lake Valley over 50 years of fertilization was likely lost from surface soils via denitrification or leaching.


Stable isotopes 15Chronosequence Urban Turfgrass 



The authors would like to thank the 40 homeowners who allowed us access to sample their lawns, as well as Bert Granberg and La’Shaye E. Cobley for assistance with spatial analysis of land cover and census data. Funding was provided by EF-0120142, EF-1241286, and EPS 1208732 from the U.S. National Science Foundation.

Author contribution statement

RMS performed statistical analyses and wrote the manuscript; JCW, JE, and PD conceived the study, carried out field and laboratory measurements, and contributed to writing the methods and discussion sections; and DEP provided insights into analysis and interpretation of the data.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rose M. Smith
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jeb C. Williamson
    • 2
  • Diane E. Pataki
    • 1
  • James Ehleringer
    • 1
  • Philip Dennison
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of UtahSalt Lake CityUSA
  2. 2.Jornada Experimental RangeNew Mexico State UniversityLas CrucesUSA
  3. 3.Department of GeographyUniversity of UtahSalt Lake CityUSA

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