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Physical properties of structural soils containing waste materials to achieve urban greening

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The densification and expansion of urban areas will increase the streams of waste materials such as bricks, concrete and street sweeping waste. In parallel, green areas offer the potential to overcome many challenges that face growing/expanding cities but require the use of large amounts of natural resources such as natural topsoil and aggregates. In this work, various waste materials mixed with organic debris are tested for greening applications in urban environments as an alternative to the consumption of natural resources.

Materials and methods

Five combinations of artefacts were studied either as “growing material” (i.e. dedicated to plant growth) or “structural material” (as support for traffic). These constructed Technosols were studied in situ in lysimeters under two sets of contrasting climatic conditions at two sites in France (Angers, oceanic climate, and Homécourt semi-continental climate). They were planted with trees (Acer platanoides) and with ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.).

Results and discussion

Compared to natural soils, the constructed Technosols exhibited high porosities and highly saturated hydraulic conductivities (up to 0.76 m3 m−3, and to 34.74 cm h−1, respectively). The physical properties–i.e. macroporosity and microporosity–of these artificial soils revealed high water supply for plants, with available soil water ranging from 0.5 to 2.9 mm cm−1. Tree and ryegrass roots were able to grow in the entire soil volume available in the lysimeters. Organic matter nature and soil pH conditions appeared to be the main drivers of plant development.


Constructed Technosols are suitable for vegetation growth and constitute a valuable alternative to the consumption of natural arable earth for urban greening applications, e.g. gardens, parks, and tree lines. Furthermore, they can provide high levels of relevant ecosystem functions in cities such as water retention and infiltration, plant settlement, carbon sequestration and even biodiversity habitats.

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This study was conducted as part of the SITERRE project funded by the ADEME Environmental Agency. The authors would also like to thank Y. Barraud-Roussel, S. Delepine-Bourgeois, C. Mazzega, D. Lemesle, L. Pineau, R. Baldo and M. Malacarne for their valuable assistance in carrying out the experiments and collecting the data.

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Correspondence to Pierre-Emmanuel Peyneau.

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Responsible editor: Fanghua Hao

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Yilmaz, D., Cannavo, P., Séré, G. et al. Physical properties of structural soils containing waste materials to achieve urban greening. J Soils Sediments 18, 442–455 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11368-016-1524-0

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  • Constructed Technosols
  • Roots
  • Soil hydraulic conductivity
  • Soil water availability
  • Soil water retention
  • Waste