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JOURNAL ARTICLE

Carbon storage by urban soils in the United States

Richard V Pouyat, Ian D Yesilonis, David J Nowak
Journal of Environmental Quality 2006, 35 (4): 1566-75
16825477
We used data available from the literature and measurements from Baltimore, Maryland, to (i) assess inter-city variability of soil organic carbon (SOC) pools (1-m depth) of six cities (Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Oakland, and Syracuse); (ii) calculate the net effect of urban land-use conversion on SOC pools for the same cities; (iii) use the National Land Cover Database to extrapolate total SOC pools for each of the lower 48 U.S. states; and (iv) compare these totals with aboveground totals of carbon storage by trees. Residential soils in Baltimore had SOC densities that were approximately 20 to 34% less than Moscow or Chicago. By contrast, park soils in Baltimore had more than double the SOC density of Hong Kong. Of the six cities, Atlanta and Chicago had the highest and lowest SOC densities per total area, respectively (7.83 and 5.49 kg m(-2)). On a pervious area basis, the SOC densities increased between 8.32 (Oakland) and 10.82 (Atlanta) kg m(-2). In the northeastern United States, Boston and Syracuse had 1.6-fold less SOC post- than in pre-urban development stage. By contrast, cities located in warmer and/or drier climates had slightly higher SOC pools post- than in pre-urban development stage (4 and 6% for Oakland and Chicago, respectively). For the state analysis, aboveground estimates of C density varied from a low of 0.3 (WY) to a high of 5.1 (GA) kg m(-2), while belowground estimates varied from 4.6 (NV) to 12.7 (NH) kg m(-2). The ratio of aboveground to belowground estimates of C storage varied widely with an overall ratio of 2.8. Our results suggest that urban soils have the potential to sequester large amounts of SOC, especially in residential areas where management inputs and the lack of annual soil disturbances create conditions for net increases in SOC. In addition, our analysis suggests the importance of regional variations of land-use and land-cover distributions, especially wetlands, in estimating urban SOC pools.

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