Baltimore Field Station

Featured Partners

Global Urban Soil Ecological Education Network (GLUSEEN) - an open source ecological network investigating the effects of urban environments on decomposition and soil community structure.


USDA Urban Agriculture Toolkit lays out the common operational elements that most urban farmers must consider as they start up or grow their operations.

Urban Soils

As urbanization spreads across the globe, so do urban soils in the form of lawns, vacant lots, and median strips.  It is important to understand the function and structure of these soils in order to better manage and understand our mosaic soil environment.  Soil processes are important for many ecosystem functions in urban areas, yet soil research in urban ecosystems remains challenging.


The transformation of landscapes from primarily agricultural and forest uses to urbanized landscapes has the potential to greatly modify soil properties and processes. Although 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.


Urban soils research at the Baltimore Field Station includes characterization of decomposition rates, nutrient cycling, carbon storage, presence of heavy metals, and classification of urban soil types.


Publications are listed in reverse chronological order.


Schwarz, Kirsten; Pouyat, Richard; Yesilonis, Ian 2016. Legacies of Lead in Charm City's Soil: Lessons from the Baltimore Ecosystem Study. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 13(2): 209. 14 p.

Yesilonis, I.; Szlavecz, K.; Pouyat, R.; Whigham, D.; Xia, L. 2016. Historical land use and stand age effects on forest soil properties in the Mid-Atlantic US. Forest Ecology and Management. 370: 83-92.

Pouyat, Richard V.; Yesilonis, Ian D.; Dombos, Miklos; Szlavecz, Katalin; Setala, Heikki; Cilliers, Sarel; Hornung, Erzsebet; Kotze, D. Johan; Yarwood, Stephanie. 2015. A Global comparison of surface soil characteristics across five cities: A test of the urban ecosystem convergence hypothesis. Soil Science. 180(4/5): 136-145.

Yesilonis, Ian D.; Pouyat, Richard; Russell-Anelli, J.; Powell, E. 2015. The effects of landscape cover on surface soils in a low density residential neighborhood in Baltimore, Maryland. Urban Ecosystems. doi: 10.1007/s11252-015-0502-4. 15 p.

Schwarz, K.; Pickett, S. T.; Lathrop, R. G.; Weathers, K. C.; Pouyat, R. V.; Cadenasso, M. L. 2012. The effects of the urban built environment on the spatial distribution of lead in residential soils. Environmental Pollution163, 32-39.

Bain, Daniel J.; Yesilonis, Ian D.; Pouyat, Richard V. 2012. Metal concentrations in urban riparian sediments along an urbanization gradient. Biogeochemistry. 107: 67-79.

Yesilonis, Ian D.; Pouyat, Richard V. 2012. Carbon stocks in urban forest remnants: Atlanta and Baltimore as case studies. Chapter 5.Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer: 103-120.

Jiao J, Ellis EC, Yesilonis I, Wu J, Wang H, Li H, Yang L. 2010. Distributions of soil phosphorus in China's densely populated village landscapes.  10:461-472.

Pouyat, Richard V.; Szlavecz, Katalin; Yesilonis, Ian D.; Groffman, Peter M.; Schwarz, Kirsten. 2010. Chemical, physical and biological characteristics of urban soils. Chapter 7. In: Aitkenhead-Peterson, Jacqueline; Volder, Astrid, eds. Urban Ecosystem Ecology. Agronomy Monograph 55. Madison, WI: American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Soil Science Society of America: 119-152.

Groffman, Peter M.; Williams, Candiss O.; Pouyat, Richard V.; Band, Lawrence E.; Yesilonis, Ian D. 2009. Nitrate leaching and nitrous oxide flux in urban forests and grasslands. Journal of Environment Quality. 38(5): 1848-1860.

Pouyat, Richard V.; Yesilonis, Ian D.; Golubiewski, Nancy E. 2009. A comparison of soil organic carbon stocks between residential turf grass and native soil. Urban Ecosystems. 12: 45-62.

Yesilonis, I.D.; Pouyat, R.V.; Neerchal, N.K. 2008. Spatial distribution of metals in soils in Baltimore, Maryland: role of native parent material, proximity to major roads, housing age and screening guidelines. Environmental Pollution. 156: 723-731.

Yesilonis, Ian D.; James, Bruce R.; Pouyat, Richard V.; Momen, Bahram . 2008. Lead forms in urban turfgrass and forest soils as related to organic matter content and pH. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment. 146: 1-17.

Pouyat, Richard V.; Yesilonis, Ian D.; Szlavecz, Katalin; Csuzdi, Csaba; Hornung, Elizabeth; Korsós, Zoltan; Russell-Anelli, Jonathan; Giorgio, Vincent . 2008. Response of forest soil properties to urbanization gradients in three metropolitan areas. Landscape Ecology. 23: 1187-1203.

Pouyat, R.V.; Yesilonis, I.D.; Russell-Anelli, J.; Neerchal, N.K. 2007. Soil chemical and physical properties that differentiate urban land-use and cover types. Soil Science of America Journal. 71(3): 1010-1019.

Pouyat, Richard V.; Yesilonis, Ian D.; Nowak, David J. 2006. Carbon storage by urban soils in the United States. Journal of Environmental Quality 35: 1566-1575.

Groffman, Peter M.; Pouyat, Richard V.; Cadenasso, Mary L.; Zipperer, Wayne C.; Szlavecz, Katalin; Yesilonis, Ian D.; Band, Lawrence E.; Brush, Grace S. . 2006. Land use context and natural soil controls on plant community and soil nitrogen and carbon dynamics in urban and rural forests. Forest Ecology and Management, Vol. 236: 177-192.

Pouyat, Richard V.; Russell-Anelli, Jonathan; Yesilonis, Ian D.; Groffman, Peter M. 2003. Soil carbon in urban forest ecosystems. In: Kimble, J.M.; Heath, Linda S.; Birdsey, Richard A.; Lal, R., eds. The potential of U.S. forest soils to sequester carbon and mitigate the greenhouse effect. Boca Raton: CRC Press: 347-362.

Pouyat, R.; Groffman, P.; Yesilonis, I; Hernandez, L. 2002. Soil carbon pools and fluxes in urban ecosystems. Environmental Pollution. 116: S107-S118.


Partner Publications

Pickett, S. T., & Cadenasso, M. L. 2009. Altered resources, disturbance, and heterogeneity: a framework for comparing urban and non-urban soils. Urban Ecosystems12(1), 23-44.

Last Modified: March 27, 2017