High soil carbon sequestration rates persist several decades in turfgrass systems: A meta-analysis

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Science of The Total Environment
Highlights • Turfgrass can sequester C and may influence emissions stemming from urbanization. • We summarized soil C sequestration rates from 63 datasets, most in the U.S. • Initial C sequestration exceeded rates for many soil conservation practices. • On average turfgrass stopped accruing soil C by 50 years after establishment. Abstract Managed turfgrass is a common component of urban landscapes that is expanding under current land use trends. Previous studies have reported high rates of soil carbon sequestration in turfgrass, but no systematic review has summarized these rates nor evaluated how they change as turfgrass ages. Here we conducted a meta-analysis of soil carbon sequestration rates from 63 studies globally, comprised mostly of C3 grass species in the U.S., including 24 chronosequence studies that evaluated carbon changes over 75 years or longer. We showed that turfgrass established within the last ten years had a positive mean soil C sequestration rate of 5.3 Mg CO2 ha−1 yr−1 (95% CI = 3.7–6.2), which is higher than rates reported for several soil conservation practices. Areas converted to turfgrass from forests were an exception, sometimes lost soil carbon, and had a cross-study mean sequestration rate that did not differ from 0. In some locations, soil C accumulated linearly with turfgrass age over several decades, but the major trend was for soil C accumulation rates to decline through time, reaching a cross-study mean sequestration rate that was not different from 0 at 50 years. We show that fitting soil C timeseries with a mechanistically derived function rather than purely empirical functions did not alter these conclusions, nor did employing equivalent soil mass versus fixed-depth carbon stock accounting. We conducted a partial greenhouse gas budget that estimated emissions from mowing, N-fertilizer production, and soil N2O emissions. When N fertilizer was applied, average maintenance emissions offset 32% of C sequestration in recently established turfgrass. Potential emission removals by turfgrass can be maximized with reduced-input management. Management decisions that avoid losing accrued soil C—both when turfgrass is first established and when it is eventually replaced with other land-uses—will also help maximize turfgrass C sequestration potential. Graphical abstract available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.159974
This article was originally published in Science of the Total Environment. The version of record is available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.159974.
carbon sequestration, urbanization, greenhouse gases, meta-analysis, chronosequence, lawns, climate action
Phillips, Claire L., Ruying Wang, Clint Mattox, Tara L.E. Trammell, Joseph Young, and Alec Kowalewski. “High Soil Carbon Sequestration Rates Persist Several Decades in Turfgrass Systems: A Meta-Analysis.” Science of The Total Environment 858 (February 2023): 159974. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.159974.