Publication Details

The effects of landscape cover on surface soils in a low density residential neighborhood in Baltimore, Maryland

Publication Toolbox

Yesilonis, Ian D.; Pouyat, Richard; Russell-Anelli, J.; Powell, E.

Year Published



Urban Ecosystems. doi: 10.1007/s11252-015-0502-4. 15 p.


Previous studies at the scale of a city have shown that surface soil nutrients, pH, and soil organic matter (SOM) can vary by land cover, land use, and management. This study was conducted in Baltimore County, Maryland, to quantify the differences in characteristics of soil in a residential neighborhood and adjacent forest patch sampling at a fine scale. The first objective was to compare soil characteristics in a residential neighborhood among ecotope types of forest, lawn, and planting beds that were underlain by the same parent material and thus only differed in plant cover. Another objective was to examine differences in soil properties of lawn soils that differed in age by 10 years. The final objective was to quantify the variation of these residential and forest soils. Composite soil samples from the surface to a depth of 5 cm were taken from planting beds and lawns from 50 residences and an adjacent forest patch. Results showed that the forest soil had 30 % more SOM and was more acidic than lawn soil. Conversely, Mg, P, K, and Ca were 47 to 67 % lower in forest compared to lawn soils even though both soils developed from similar parent materials. For the residential lawns, the older development had significantly higher concentration of soil P. There was also a difference between front and back lawns where front lawns had 26 and 10 % higher concentrations of Ca and Mg, respectively, and a higher pH than the back lawns. Finally, the variation of soil characteristics of all areas sampled, from lowest to highest was pH < SOM < K < Mg < Ca < P. Results of this study suggest that anthropogenic factors appear to overwhelm natural soil forming factors in suburban residential areas in the Baltimore metropolitan area and these differences appear to increase with time.


Yesilonis, Ian D.; Pouyat, R. V.; 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.

Last updated on: November 23, 2015