Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Don't Overlook Urban Soil

Date:
June 25, 2007
Source:
Soil Science Society of America
Summary:
Just as urban communities feature a mosaic of cultures, an analysis of Baltimore soil revealed a mosaic of soil conditions. Urban soil has been presumed to be highly disturbed, but this study showed that typical urban soil isn't so typical -- and isn't so disturbed -- after all.

Curb soil in the city of Baltimore, USA. Although the soil may look "typical" researchers found that surface soil characteristics varied widely throughout the city.
Credit: USDA Forest Service

If you were looking for fertile soil, it's doubtful you'd begin your search in most U.S. cities. After all, urban soils are often viewed as drastically disturbed soils with low fertility. However, new research by a team of scientists working in Baltimore discovered that surface soil characteristics were not necessarily infertile and varied widely, making it difficult to define or describe a "typical urban soil."

Although the more conspicuous effects of urban disturbances on soil have been considered by researchers, other factors associated with urban land transformations have received limited attention. These various effects create a "mosaic" of soil conditions, ranging from natural to highly disturbed soil profiles.

To examine the effects of land use and cover on soils, researchers from USDA Forest Service and the University of Maryland Baltimore County sampled and measured the physical and chemical properties of surface soils from 122 Baltimore plots.

According to the authors of the study, "Land use and cover may serve as an indicator of disturbance, site history, management, and the urban environment." By measuring the chemical and physical differences among various soil plots, scientists hoped to determine whether land use or cover was the cause of differences and what specific soil properties best differentiate the land-use and cover types.

Chemical analysis of Baltimore's soils revealed high chemical variability, while physical measurements of soil were less variable.

"In general, levels of essential nutrients in Baltimore's soils were adequate for plant growth, but in some cases calcium levels were excessive, making those soils more alkaline," said Richard Pouyat, US Forest Service researcher and lead author of study. "The high calcium levels are probably related to the presence in urban environments of calcium-rich structural materials such as concrete."

Additional analysis revealed that forests and cover types dominated by turf grass showed differences in potassium and phosphorus levels and in bulk density, most likely due to fertilization and trampling that is typically associated with turf areas. Researchers also discovered differences in soil pH between residences and other land uses dominated by turf grass, such as transportation and commercial corridors. Scientists believe these differences may reflect variations in management and proximity to calcium-rich building and paving materials.

Contrary to their predictions, researchers discovered no relationships found between land use and heavy metal levels. Rather, researchers found trace metals to be correlated with surface rock types instead of urban factors, making these characteristics unique to the Baltimore region.

"This was surprising since in an old industrial city like Baltimore, [where] large volumes of soil were disturbed, added, or removed over time and have been exposed to various contaminants," said Pouyat. The strong relationship between surface rock types and trace metals suggests that the transport of soil within the Baltimore landscape occurred at short distances.

Researchers hope the soil properties revealed by the Baltimore study will be helpful in conducting future urban soil surveys.

"Since some of the properties measured are related to human activities that typically occur in urban landscapes, comparable studies in other cities should show similar results," said Pouyat.

Researchers report their findings in the May-June 2007 issue of Soil Science Society of America Journal. This research was part of the Baltimore Ecosystem Study (BES), an ongoing effort to understand urban ecosystems, which is funded by the National Science Foundation. Future studies by the team of scientists will investigate the relationships of soil heavy metals with other urban factors.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Soil Science Society of America. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Soil Science Society of America. "Don't Overlook Urban Soil." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 June 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/06/070620103254.htm>.
Soil Science Society of America. (2007, June 25). Don't Overlook Urban Soil. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/06/070620103254.htm
Soil Science Society of America. "Don't Overlook Urban Soil." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/06/070620103254.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

AP (July 30, 2014) Thousands of people are trekking to a Bavarian farmer's field to check out a mysterious set of crop circles. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

AFP (July 30, 2014) Pan-African airline ASKY has suspended all flights to and from the capitals of Liberia and Sierra Leone amid the worsening Ebola health crisis, which has so far caused 672 deaths in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Duration: 00:43 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey

At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey

AP (July 30, 2014) At least 20 New Jersey residents have tested positive for chikungunya, a mosquito-borne virus that has spread through the Caribbean. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Xtreme Eating: Your Daily Caloric Intake All On One Plate

Xtreme Eating: Your Daily Caloric Intake All On One Plate

Newsy (July 30, 2014) The Center for Science in the Public Interest released its 2014 list of single meals with whopping calorie counts. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

    Technology News



      Save/Print:
      Share:

      Free Subscriptions


      Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

      Get Social & Mobile


      Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

      Have Feedback?


      Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
      Mobile: iPhone Android Web
      Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
      Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
      Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins