• Soils, Sec 2 • Global Change, Environ Risk Assess, Sustainable Land Use • Review Article
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Human footprints in urban forests: implication of nitrogen deposition for nitrogen and carbon storage

Abstract

Purpose

Rising levels of nitrogen (N) deposition are influencing urban forest carbon (C) and N dynamics due to greater human disturbance compared to those in rural areas. N deposition in combination with increased atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) and water limitation may alter C and N storage in urban forests. This review aimed to provide a better understanding of N and C storage under N deposition scenarios in urban forests.

Results and discussion

Globally, fuel combustion and biomass burning contribute in approximately 70 and 16 % of the NOx emission respectively. It is also estimated that NHy and NOx are two to four times higher in urban forests compared to rural areas. However, higher N deposition may not always result in increased N and C storage in urban forests. In fact, urban forests may even show early symptoms of N and C losses under climate change. For example, urban forests in fire-prone areas require higher frequency of burning to reduce the threat of wildfires, leading to an acceleration of C and N loss. Additionally, chronic N deposition may result in an early N loss in urban forests due to faster N saturation and soil acidification in urban forests compared to rural forests. Studies of N deposition on urban forests using N isotope composition (δ15N) also showed that N loss from urban forests can occur through the direct leaching of the deposited NO3 -N. We also noted that using different 15N signal of soil and plant in combination of tree ring δ15N may provide a better understanding of N movement in urban forests.

Conclusions

Although urban forests may become a source of C and N faster than rural forests, N-limited urban forests may benefit from N deposition to retain both N and C stocks longer than non-N-limited urban forests. Appropriate management practices may also help to delay such symptoms; however, the main source of emission still needs to be managed to reduce both N deposition and rising atmospheric CO2 in urban forests. Otherwise, the N and C stocks in urban forests may further decline when prolonged drought conditions under global climate change increase the frequency of fires and reduce plant photosynthesis.

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Acknowledgments

SHB was supported by Collaborative Research Network Fellowship from University of the Sunshine Coast and Griffith University to undertake this review paper.

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Correspondence to Shahla Hosseini Bai.

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Hosseini Bai, S., Xu, Z., Blumfield, T.J. et al. Human footprints in urban forests: implication of nitrogen deposition for nitrogen and carbon storage. J Soils Sediments 15, 1927–1936 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11368-015-1205-4

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Keywords

  • Fires
  • Fossil fuel combustion
  • Drought
  • Global climate change
  • Nitrogen deposition
  • Nitrogen isotope composition