Baltimore Ecosystem Study Institute of Ecosystem Studies

2013 BES Annual Meeting Presentation and Poster Abstracts

Comparative geographies of soil lead - Can Baltimore’s soil teach us about gardening in Sacramento, CA?
Schwarz, Kirsten
Co-Authors: Kirsten Schwarz, Mary Cadenasso, Jill Baty, Bethany Cutts, Jonathan London, and Shaina Meiners

Research conducted in Baltimore, MD investigating the link between residential soil lead concentrations and urban land cover revealed important correlations. These patterns were used as the basis for a much expanded look at the dynamics of soil lead and potential tradeoffs with urban gardening in Sacramento, CA. The desire to increase access to local, healthy foods has driven a rise in urban gardening in many US cities. However, legacy contamination from our past use of lead-containing products is a potential complication. This creates an opportunity to investigate how to best manage for multiple ecosystem services - i.e. improving access to local, healthy foods and reducing potential exposure to lead enriched soils. This is especially a concern in climates where the redistribution of fine particulates could further increase lead loadings to gardens. Working together with a community non-profit that is increasing access to local foods through raised-bed home gardens, we are quantifying the fine scale heterogeneity of soil lead at the parcel and garden scale using handheld x-ray fluorescence. As in Baltimore, the results are related to elements of urban land cover to determine if lead concentrations vary over space, and if so, at what scale. Preliminary results indicate that soil lead readings rarely exceed the Federal guideline of 400 ppm, but many exceed the California guideline of 80 ppm. Data from cities of varying climates will allow us to compare soil lead concentrations to the built and social structure of cities to identify similarities that can be used for predictive modeling.