.|  Soil Projects
  1. Long Term Biogeochemical Study Plots
  2. Soil nitrogen biogeochemistry in urban grasslands (home lawns)
  3. Invasive soil fauna and biogeochemical cycling
  4. Soil CO2 efflux measurements in suburban landscapes
  5. Soil Fauna Studies
  6. Urban Riparian Ecology
  7. Wireless sensor networks for soil monitoring
  8. Carbon Densities in Urban Soils
  9. Baltimore Ecosystem Study soil chemistry data via web services from the CUAHSI Hydrological Information System (HIS)
If you would like more information, please contact Peter Groffman, Katalin Szlavecz, or Ian Yesilonis.

Josh Cogan at soil incubator, 2006. Photo: Kathy Szlavecz
Soil processes are important for many functions in ecosystems. The most universal of these functions is the processing and storage of the organic matter produced by primary producers (plants). In terrestrial ecosystems, more than 50% of the organic material fixed by primary producers flows to soil-based "detrital" food chains (organisms living in the soil). As organic matter is processed by soil biota, nutrients are released to the environment and become available for recycling back to primary producers. Organic residues from decomposition become part of the stable pool of soil organic matter that plays an important role in moderating soil physical and chemical conditions. In addition to the degradation of organic matter and nutrient cycling, microorganisms carry out other functions that are important at micro, ecosystem, landscape, and global scales. These functions include the production of a variety of "trace gases" (carbon dioxide - CO2, nitrous oxide - N2O, methane - CH4) that influence the chemistry and physics of the atmosphere, processing water, soil, and air pollutants, and maintenance of the physical structure of the soil.


Soil sampling equipment in pit, 2004. Photo: Ian Yesilonis
Soil research in urban ecosystems is challenging. The transformation of landscapes from primarily agricultural and forest uses to urbanized landscapes has the potential to greatly modify soil properties and processes. While the effects of conversion of native ecosystems to agricultural use have been relatively well-studied, conversions to urban land uses have received little attention. As land is converted to urban uses there are direct and indirect factors that can affect soils. Direct effects include physical disturbances, burial or coverage of soil by fill material and impervious surfaces, and soil management inputs (e.g., fertilization and irrigation). Indirect effects include changes in the abiotic and biotic environment as areas are urbanized. The direct effects often lead to a new soil "parent material" on which soil development then proceeds. Indirect effects that can influence this development, as well as processes in intact soils include, the urban heat island effect, introductions of exotic plant and animal species, and atmospheric deposition of various pollutants. Moreover, toxic, sub-lethal, or stress effects of the urban environment on soil decomposers and primary producers can significantly affect soils.

Soil research in BES has several components, including long-term monitoring of basic soil processes in a series of "permanent plots", characterization and analysis of the structure and function of soil biotic communities detailed studies of pollutant processing soils, and classification and analysis of urban soils. Soils are also an important component of the BES education program.