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Arizona State University (2015)

Soil Biogeochemical Consequences of the Replacement of Residential Grasslands with Water-Efficient Landscapes

Heavenrich, Hannah

Titre : Soil Biogeochemical Consequences of the Replacement of Residential Grasslands with Water-Efficient Landscapes

Auteur : Heavenrich, Hannah

Université de soutenance : Arizona State University (ASU)

Grade : Master of Science (MS) 2015

Résumé
As a result of growing populations and uncertain resource availability, urban areas are facing pressure from federal and state agencies, as well as residents, to promote conservation programs that provide services for people and mitigate environmental harm. Current strategies in US cities aim to reduce the impact of municipal and household resource use, including programs to promote water conservation. One common conservation program incentivizes the replacement of water-intensive turfgrass lawns with landscapes that use less water consisting of interspersed drought-tolerant shrubs and trees with rock or mulch groundcover (e.g. xeriscapes, rain gardens, water-wise landscapes). A handful of previous studies in experimental landscapes have shown that converting a turfgrass yard to a shrub-dominated landscape has the potential to increase rates of nitrate (NO3-) leaching. However, no studies have examined the drivers or patterns across diverse management practices. In this research, I compared soil nutrient retention and cycling in turfgrass and lawn-alternative xeriscaped yards along a chronosequence of time since land cover change in Tempe, Arizona, in the semi-arid US Southwest. Soil inorganic extractable nitrogen (N) pools were greater in xeriscapes compared to turfgrass lawns. On average xeriscapes contained 2.5±0.4 g NO3—N/m2 in the first 45 cm of soil, compared to 0.6±0.7 g NO3—N/m2 in lawns. Soil NO3—N pools in xeriscaped yards also varied significantly with time : pools were largest 9-13 years after cover change and declined to levels comparable to turfgrass at 18-21 years. Variation in soil extractable NO3—N with landscape age was strongly influenced by management practices that control soil water availability, including shrub cover, the presence of sub-surface plastic sheeting, and the frequency of irrigation. This research is the first to explore the ecological outcomes and temporal dynamics of an increasingly common, ‘sustainable’ land use practice that is universally promoted in US cities. Our findings show that transitioning from turfgrass to water-efficient residential landscaping can lead to an accumulation of NO3—N that may be lost from the soil rooting zone over time, through leaching following irrigation or rainfall. These results have implications for best management practices to optimize the benefits of water-conserving residential yards.

Sujets : Ecology / Soil sciences / Biogeochemistry / nitrate / residential / soil / turfgrass / water-efficient / xeriscape

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