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A comparison of carbon and nitrogen stocks among land uses/covers in coastal Florida


Coastal areas are rapidly developing due to population growth and the appeal of coastlines. In order to gain insight into how land use/cover affects carbon (C) storage in a coastal context, we examined soil and vegetation C and soil nitrogen (N) across land uses near Apalachicola, FL. Forested wetlands had the greatest soil C and N storage, while natural pine forests and pine plantations had the least. In paired plots, urban lawns had significantly greater mineral soil N content compared to urban forest remnants. Total ecosystem C (soil + vegetation) was higher in forested wetlands than all other land uses/covers combined due to the high organic content of those wetland soils. Urban forest remnants and lawns had greater total ecosystem C than natural pine forests and pine plantations, which likely reflects the differential influence of prescribed fire and less frequent anthropogenic disturbances between the rural and urban areas, respectively. Projections of land use change in Franklin County, FL combined with these data suggest that increases in C storage are possible with continued urbanization along the Gulf Coast, if forest remnants are left and lawns are incorporated in built-up areas. However, this study does not account for C emissions during land conversion, or any emissions associated with maintaining urban built-up and residential areas. A better understanding of land use/cover influences on C pools has applications for planning and development, as well as ecological and environmental protection in the region.

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Analysis of variance


Annual net primary productivity


Bulk density


Diameter at breast height


Digital orthophoto quarter quadrangles


Net primary productivity


National Resources Conservation Service


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Funding for this research was provided by the Center for Forest Sustainability at Auburn University. We would like to thank Dr. Tom Doyle (USGS-Lafayette, LA) for the analysis of tree cores for this study and Andrew Williams (USDA-NRCS) for help with the characterization of soil profiles in the field. Thanks to all who helped with lab and fieldwork, project insight, and other assistance, but especially Jennifer Trusty, Herbert Kesler, and Robin Governo.

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Correspondence to R. Chelsea Nagy.

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Nagy, R.C., Lockaby, B.G., Zipperer, W.C. et al. A comparison of carbon and nitrogen stocks among land uses/covers in coastal Florida. Urban Ecosyst 17, 255–276 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11252-013-0312-5

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  • Soil
  • Vegetation
  • Carbon
  • Nitrogen
  • Urban
  • Land use/cover
  • Lawns