Urban soil carbon and nitrogen converge at a continental scale


In urban areas, anthropogenic drivers of ecosystem structure and function are thought to predominate over larger-scale biophysical drivers. Residential yards are influenced by individual homeowner preferences and actions, and these factors are hypothesized to converge yard structure across broad scales. We examined soil total C and total delta C-13, organic C and organic delta C-13, total N, and delta N-15 in residential yards and corresponding reference ecosystems in six cities across the United States that span major climates and ecological biomes (Baltimore, Maryland; Boston, Massachusetts; Los Angeles, California; Miami, Florida; Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota; and Phoenix, Arizona). Across the cities, we found soil C and N concentrations and soil delta N-15 were less variable in residential yards compared to reference sites supporting the hypothesis that soil C, N, and delta N-15 converge across these cities. Increases in organic soil C, soil N, and soil delta N-15 across urban, suburban, and rural residential yards in several cities supported the hypothesis that soils responded similarly to altered resource inputs across cities, contributing to convergence of soil C and N in yards compared to natural systems. Soil C and N dynamics in residential yards showed evidence of increasing C and N inputs to urban soils or dampened decomposition rates over time that are influenced by climate and/or housing age across the cities. In the warmest cities (Los Angeles, Miami, Phoenix), greater organic soil C and higher soil delta C-13 in yards compared to reference sites reflected the greater proportion of C-4 plants in these yards. In the two warm arid cities (Los Angeles, Phoenix), total soil delta C-13 increased and organic soil delta C-13 decreased with increasing home age indicating greater inorganic C in the yards around newer homes. In general, soil organic C and delta C-13, soil N, and soil delta N-15 increased with increasing home age suggesting increased soil C and N cycling rates and associated C-12 and N-14 losses over time control yard soil C and N dynamics. This study provides evidence that conversion of native reference ecosystems to residential areas results in convergence of soil C and N at a continental scale. The mechanisms underlying these effects are complex and vary spatially and temporally.



natural abundance carbon stable isotopes, natural abundance nitrogen stable isotopes, residential yard management, soil C cycling, soil N cycling, urban residential yards