Urban Ecosystems

, Volume 15, Issue 1, pp 1–18 | Cite as

The residential landscape: fluxes of elements and the role of household decisions

  • Cinzia Fissore
  • Sarah E. Hobbie
  • Jennifer Y. King
  • Joseph P. McFadden
  • Kristen C. Nelson
  • Lawrence A. Baker


We assessed biogeochemical cycling of elements through residential household landscapes to evaluate the importance of annual to decadal household-level decisions for element fluxes that contribute to urban and regional pollution. We combined a mailed survey, vegetation measurements, and allometric and biogeochemical models to estimate fluxes and accumulation of carbon (C), nitrogen (N), and phosphorus (P) in landscapes of 360 single-family homes in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Minnesota metropolitan area. Carbon inputs and accumulation were strongly influenced by the presence of trees on the property. Nitrogen inputs to the landscape exceeded estimated ecosystem demand for N on average by 51% and were dominated by N fertilizer application. Because Minnesota state law restricts the use of P fertilizer, pet waste was responsible for 84% of P inputs to the landscape. The results have implications for understanding sources of urban pollution and the potential flexibility (i.e., the potential for change) in household behaviors such as tree planting, fertilization, and pet waste management that contribute to such pollution.


Urban ecology Carbon Nitrogen Phosphorus Biogeochemistry Turfgrass lawn 



This research was supported by the National Science Foundation Dynamics of Coupled Natural and Human Systems Program (BCS-0709581, BCS-0908549, BCS-0908998) and Long-Term Ecological Research Program (DEB-0620652). We thank the large number of homeowners who responded to our survey and gave us permission to make measurements on their property. We thank our geographic information systems and database specialists, Ina Jakobsdottir and A. Slaats, for their invaluable support, our field crew: B. Bobbitt, C. Buyarski, M. Kemp, T. Knudson, P. Koenig, T. Kraft, M. Ranniger, G. Rubenstein, J. Schubert, and A. Thone, and C. Lee, S. Grayzeck, and A. Woodside for survey coordination and data entry. We also thank D. Nidzgorski and S. Panzer Wein for their useful comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cinzia Fissore
    • 1
  • Sarah E. Hobbie
    • 2
  • Jennifer Y. King
    • 3
  • Joseph P. McFadden
    • 3
  • Kristen C. Nelson
    • 4
  • Lawrence A. Baker
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Soil, Water, and ClimateUniversity of MinnesotaSaint PaulUSA
  2. 2.Department of Ecology, Evolution, and BehaviorUniversity of MinnesotaSaint PaulUSA
  3. 3.Department of GeographyUniversity of CaliforniaSanta BarbaraUSA
  4. 4.Department of Forest Resources and Department of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation BiologyUniversity of MinnesotaSaint PaulUSA
  5. 5.Water Resources CenterUniversity of MinnesotaSaint PaulUSA

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