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Environ Pollut. 2002;116 Suppl 1:S107-18.

Soil carbon pools and fluxes in urban ecosystems.

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Northeastern Research Station, Baltimore Ecosystem Study, University of Maryland, 21227, USA.


The transformation of landscapes from non-urban to urban land use has the potential to greatly modify soil carbon (C) pools and fluxes. For urban ecosystems, very little data exists to assess whether urbanization leads to an increase or decrease in soil C pools. We analyzed three data sets to assess the potential for urbanization to affect soil organic C. These included surface (0-10 cm) soil C data from unmanaged forests along an urban-rural gradient, data from "made" soils (1 m depth) from five different cities, and surface (0-15 cm) soil data of several land-use types in the city of Baltimore. Along the urban-rural land-use gradient, we found that soil organic matter concentration in the surface 10 cm varied significantly (P=0.001). In an analysis of variance, the urban forest stands had significantly (P=0.02) higher organic C densities (kg m(-2) to 1 m depth) than the suburban and rural stands. Our analysis of pedon data from five cities showed that the highest soil organic C densities occurred in loamy fill (28.5 kg m(-2)) with the lowest occurring in clean fill and old dredge materials (1.4 and 6.9 kg m(-2), respectively). Soil organic C densities for residential areas (15.5 +/- 1.2 kg m(-2)) were consistent across cities. A comparison of land-use types showed that low density residential and institutional land-uses had 44 and 38% higher organic C densities than the commercial land-use type, respectively. Our analysis shows that as adjacent land-use becomes more urbanized, forest soil C pools can be affected even in stands not directly disturbed by urban land development. Data from several "made" soils suggests that physical disturbances and inputs of various materials by humans can greatly alter the amount C stored in these soils.

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