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Climate change symposium: Urban soils overlooked as source for storing carbon

American Society of Agronomy

September 17, 2015--The role of increasing carbon dioxide levels in climate change is well-documented. And scientists have studied "storing" atmospheric carbon dioxide in forest soils or peat. However, the role of urban soils in storing carbon is a less-researched topic.

The "Carbon Storage and Dynamics in Urban Soils" symposium planned at the Synergy in Science ASA, CSSA, SSSA International Annual Meeting in Minneapolis, MN, will address this important topic. The symposium will be held Monday, November 16, 2015. The meeting is sponsored by the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and the Soil Science Society of America.

"Urban populations and areas are increasing across the globe," says Bryant Scharenbroch, the symposium organizer. "There might be a lot of potential in urban soils for storing carbon to mediate climate change. There's a limit to how much carbon a soil can hold, just like a tank of gas. At this point in time, urban soils aren't 'empty' of carbon, but there might be a lot of room for more carbon in their 'tanks.'" Scharenbroch is a professor at UW-Stevens Point.

"The strategy is to enhance ecological functions and ecosystem services of interest to humans," says Rattan Lal, one of the speakers at the conference, and a professor at Ohio State University. "In this context, increasing the biodiversity of plant species (e.g., deep rooted plants) is important. Management options to improve the soil carbon storage pool include choosing certain grass species, recycling clippings, using balanced fertilizers, and irrigating wisely."

Richard Pouyat, with the USDA Forest Service will discuss local, regional and global perspectives of carbon storage in urban soils. "For urban ecosystems, the data collected thus far suggests urbanization can lead to either an increase or decrease in soil carbon pools and fluxes. It depends on the native ecosystem being impacted by urban development. Policies that influence development patterns, population density, management practices, and other human factors can greatly reduce the impact of urban land use change on the carbon cycle."


For more information about the Synergy in Science 2015 meeting, visit Media are invited to attend the conference. Pre-registration by Nov. 1, 2015, is required. Visit for registration information. For information about the Carbon Storage and Dynamics in Urban Soils symposium, visit

To speak with one of the scientists, contact Susan V. Fisk, 608-273-8091, to arrange an interview.

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