Response of forest soil properties to urbanization gradients in three metropolitan areas

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We investigated the effects of urban environments on the chemical properties of forest soils in the metropolitan areas of Baltimore, New York, and Budapest. We hypothesized that soils in forest patches in each city will exhibit changes in chemistry corresponding to urbanization gradients, but more strongly with various urban metrics than distance to the urban core. Moreover, differences in parent material and development patterns would differentially affect the soil chemical response in each metropolitan area. Results showed that soil chemical properties varied with measures of urban land use in all three cities, including distance to the urban core, which was an unexpected result. Moreover, the results showed that the spatial extent and amount of change was greater in New York than in Baltimore and Budapest for those elements that showed a relationship to the urbanization gradient (Pb, Cu, and to a lesser extent Ca). The spatial relationship of the soil chemical properties to distance varied from city to city. In New York, concentrations of Pb, Cu, and Ca decreased to approximately background concentrations at 75 km from the urban core. By contrast, concentrations of these elements decreased closer to the urban core in Baltimore and Budapest. Moreover, a threshold was reached at about 75% urban land use above which concentrations of Pb and Cu increased by more than twofold relative to concentrations below this threshold. Results of this study suggest that forest soils are responding to urbanization gradients in all three cities, though characteristics of each city (spatial pattern of development, parent material, and pollution sources) influenced the soil chemical response.

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