Urban Ecosystems

, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 45–62 | Cite as

A comparison of soil organic carbon stocks between residential turf grass and native soil

  • Richard V. PouyatEmail author
  • Ian D. Yesilonis
  • Nancy E. Golubiewski


A central principle in urban ecological theory implies that in urbanized landscapes anthropogenic drivers will dominate natural drivers in the control of soil organic carbon storage (SOC). To assess the effect of urban land-use change on the storage of SOC, we compared SOC stocks of turf grass and native cover types of two metropolitan areas (Baltimore, MD, and Denver, CO) representing climatologically distinct regions in the United States. We hypothesized that introducing turf grass and management will lead to higher SOC densities in the arid Denver area and lower densities in the mesic Baltimore area relative to native cover types. Moreover, differences between turf grass soils will be less than differences between the native soils of each metropolitan region. Within Baltimore, turf grass had almost a 2-fold higher SOC density at 0- to 1-m and 0- to 20-cm depths than in rural forest soils, whereas there were no differences with soils of urban forest remnants. Moreover, urban forest remnants had more than 70% higher SOC densities than rural forest soils. Within Denver, turf grass (>25 years of age) had more than 2-fold higher SOC densities than in shortgrass steppe soils, while having similar densities to Baltimore turf grass soils. By contrast, the native soils of Baltimore were almost 2-fold higher than the native steppe grass soils of Denver using SOC densities of remnant forests as representative of native soils in the Baltimore region. These results supported our hypothesis that turf grass systems will be similar in SOC densities across regional variations in climate, parent material, and topography. These similarities are apparently due to greater management efforts in the Denver region to offset the constraint of climate, i.e., anthropogenic factors (management supplements) overwhelmed native environmental factors that control SOC storage.


Land-use change Lawns Soil carbon Turf grass Urban soils 



We thank an anonymous reviewer and S. Schwartz for their comments on this manuscript. Funding support came from the USDA Forest Service, Northern Global Change Program and Research Work Unit (NE-4952), Syracuse, NY; Baltimore Ecosystem Study’s Long Term Ecological Research grant from the National Science Foundation (Grant No. 0423476); and the Center for Urban Environmental Research and Education, University of Maryland Baltimore County grant from the Environmental Protection Agency (R-82818204). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.


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Copyright information

© United States Forest 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard V. Pouyat
    • 1
    Email author
  • Ian D. Yesilonis
    • 1
  • Nancy E. Golubiewski
    • 2
  1. 1.US Forest Service, Northern Research Station, c/o Baltimore Ecosystem StudyUniversity of MarylandBaltimoreUSA
  2. 2.New Zealand Centre for Ecological EconomicsMassey University and Landcare ResearchPalmerston NorthNew Zealand

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