Building houses and managing lawns could limit yard soil carbon for centuries

Published on 2019-08-17T04:24:25Z (GMT) by
Abstract Background Comparisons of soil carbon (C) pools across land uses can be confounded by site-specific history. To better quantify the response of soil C pools to residential development and use, we compared yard soils (n = 20) to adjacent mown fields and second-growth forests within land-use clusters (LUC; n = 12). Land uses within clusters shared site-specific legacies (land use and other soil forming history) prior to residential development (15–227 years ago). We analyzed soil cores to 60-cm depth for carbon, nitrogen, and bulk density. Within one LUC, we monitored soil dissolved organic carbon, moisture, and thermal regimes to explain soil C dynamics. Results We accounted for pre-development legacies to test how present uses affect soil properties. We found that yard soil C pools to 60-cm depth (9.07 ± 0.32 kg C m−2; mean ± SE) were smaller than fields (10.26 ± 0.44 kg C m−2) and forests (10.62 ± 0.87 kg C m−2). Fields contained more nitrogen to 60-cm depth (0.78 ± 0.043 kg N m−2) than yards (0.68 ± 0.030 kg N m−2) and forests (0.69 ± 0.057 kg N m−2). Time since development predicted decreased yard and field soil C/N, field soil N accumulation, and reduced yard bulk density. In old yards (> 150 years), where residents in recent times mowed monthly to bimonthly and left clippings on the lawn, there was evidence of soil C and N gains relative to old commercially managed yards mown weekly with clippings exported. Conclusions Our study suggests land conversion to yard can limit soil C pools for centuries, with contemporary management key to that trajectory. Our research points to the importance of accounting for pre-development legacies to reveal the response of soil properties to land conversion and present use. This work can inform policies and land use intended to enhance the soil C sink and minimize development-related soil C losses.

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Peach, Morgan; Ogden, Laura; Mora, Eleni; Friedland, Andrew (2019): Building houses and managing lawns could limit yard soil carbon for centuries. figshare. Collection.