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 September 19, 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 September 19, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Friday, September 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

AP (Sep. 18, 2014) Grand the elephant has successfully undergone surgery to remove a portion of infected tusk at Tbilisi Zoo in Georgia. British veterinary surgeons used an electric drill to extract the infected piece. (Sept. 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Chimp Violence Study Renews Debate On Why They Kill

Chimp Violence Study Renews Debate On Why They Kill

Newsy (Sep. 17, 2014) The study weighs in on a debate over whether chimps are naturally violent or become that way due to human interference in the environment. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Some Tobacco Farmers Thrive Amid Challenges

Some Tobacco Farmers Thrive Amid Challenges

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) The South's tobacco country is surviving, and even thriving in some cases, as demand overseas keeps growers in the fields of one of America's oldest cash crops. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Given Rare Glimpse of 350-Kilo Colossal Squid

Scientists Given Rare Glimpse of 350-Kilo Colossal Squid

AFP (Sep. 16, 2014) Scientists say a female colossal squid weighing an estimated 350 kilograms (770 lbs) and thought to be only the second intact specimen ever found was carrying eggs when discovered in the Antarctic. Duration: 00:47 Video provided by AFP
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