Soil Carbon Dynamics in Residential Lawns Converted from Appalachian Mixed Oak Stands

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The conversion of unmanaged forest land to homesites dominated by managed turfgrass lawns continues to increase and has large potential impacts on biogeochemical cycling. The conversion process from forest into mowed turfgrass involves a major disturbance to soil properties and shift in ecological conditions, which could affect soil physical, chemical and biological properties, including carbon sequestration. We conducted a study on 64 residential properties, ranging from 5 to 52 years since development, to compare soil carbon content, bulk density, temperature, and moisture, between lawns and the surrounding forests from which they were converted. Homeowners were surveyed on lawn management practices and environmental attitudes, and the relationships between these and soil properties were investigated. Soil bulk density was significantly higher in the upper 10 cm of lawns compared to adjacent forest (35% higher at 0–5 cm and 15.6% higher at 5–10 cm). Total soil C content to 30 cm of lawn (6.5 kg C m−2) and forest (7.1 kg C m−2) marginally differed (p = 0.08), and lawns contained significantly greater C (0.010 g C cm−3) than forests (0.007 g C cm−3) at the 20–30 cm soil depth (p = 0.0137). In the lawns, there was a positive relationship between time since development and surface (0–5 cm) C concentration (p = 0.04), but a negative relationship at 20–30 cm (p = 0.03). Surface soils also exhibited a positive correlation between fertilization frequency and C (p = 0.0005) content. Lawn management intensity (fertilizer and pesticide use) increased with environmental commitment. Homeowners with a higher environmental commitment had lawns with greater soil carbon levels. Our results indicate that converting unmanaged Appalachian hardwood forest into managed, turfgrass-dominated residential landscapes may affect C depth distribution, but results in little change in total soil carbon sequestration in the upper 30 cm.



carbon sequestration, soil disturbance, forest conversion, land development, urbanization, interface forest, urban interface


Campbell, C.D.; Seiler, J.R.; Wiseman, P.E.; Strahm, B.D.; Munsell, J.F. Soil Carbon Dynamics in Residential Lawns Converted from Appalachian Mixed Oak Stands. Forests 2014, 5, 425-438.