Land-cover effects on soil organic carbon stocks in a European city

Jill L. Edmondson, Zoe G. Davies, Sarah A. McCormack, Kevin J. Gaston, Jonathan R. Leake

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

75 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Soil is the vital foundation of terrestrial ecosystems storing water, nutrients, and almost three-quarters of the organic carbon stocks of the Earth's biomes. Soil organic carbon (SOC) stocks vary with land-cover and land-use change, with significant losses occurring through disturbance and cultivation. Although urbanisation is a growing contributor to land-use change globally, the effects of urban land-cover types on SOC stocks have not been studied for densely built cities. Additionally, there is a need to resolve the direction and extent to which greenspace management such as tree planting impacts on SOC concentrations. Here, we analyse the effect of land-cover (herbaceous, shrub or tree cover), on SOC stocks in domestic gardens and non-domestic greenspaces across a typical mid-sized U.K. city (Leicester, 73km2, 56% greenspace), and map citywide distribution of this ecosystem service. SOC was measured in topsoil and compared to surrounding extra-urban agricultural land. Average SOC storage in the city's greenspace was 9.9kgm-2, to 21cm depth. SOC concentrations under trees and shrubs in domestic gardens were greater than all other land-covers, with total median storage of 13.5kgm-2 to 21cm depth, more than 3kgm-2 greater than any other land-cover class in domestic and non-domestic greenspace and 5kgm-2 greater than in arable land. Land-cover did not significantly affect SOC concentrations in non-domestic greenspace, but values beneath trees were higher than under both pasture and arable land, whereas concentrations under shrub and herbaceous land-covers were only higher than arable fields. We conclude that although differences in greenspace management affect SOC stocks, trees only marginally increase these stocks in non-domestic greenspaces, but may enhance them in domestic gardens, and greenspace topsoils hold substantial SOC stores that require protection from further expansion of artificial surfaces e.g. patios and driveways.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)444-453
Number of pages10
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Volume472
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2014
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Ecosystem services
  • Gardens
  • Non-domestic greenspace
  • Urban greenspace
  • Urban soils

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