Baltimore Ecosystem Study Institute of Ecosystem Studies

2011 BES Annual Meeting Presentation and Poster Abstracts

Restoring Urban Hydrologic Services through Urban Soil Husbandry
Smith, Brennan
Co-Authors: Dr. Stu Schwartz, Kathleen Cullen, Rico Bado

Soil decompaction and amendment can restore the structure, hydrologic function, and active ecosystem processes of disturbed urban soils. We describe the restoration of hydrologic function across different soil treatment practices by contrasting infiltration, texture, bulk density and organic matter over a 3 to 7 year time frame on a disturbed site in Baltimore City and a horticultural nursery near Lothian in Southern Maryland. Soil decompaction and amendment increases organic matter and reduces bulk density in the short term, but the longevity of these effects remains an important question. Understanding the long term relationship between soil treatment and stormwater runoff generation is critical for implementing storm water credits for sustainable landscaping. Differences across practices suggest a tipping point beyond which decompaction and amendment can jumpstart a dynamic soil ecosystem that recycles nutrients and maintains organic matter, soil structure, and infiltration capacity. Results to date show significant improvements in hydrologic and ecologic function without any irrigation or fertilizer inputs, suggesting the broader potential for restoring urban soil function through superior sustainable landscaping.