A “healthy” lawn improves the environment

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Nitrogen outflow experiment

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Research team members Amanda Suchy and Ben Glass Siegel set up a rainfall simulation experiment to measure fertilizer runoff on residential lawns.

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Credit: Laura Templeton

New York, October 17, 2023 — America’s residential lawns are iconic landscapes for many, and about half of U.S. homeowners use fertilizer to keep their yards lush. But these overt health traits hide growing environmental health problems, caused by nitrogen in fertilizers flowing downstream or leaching into the atmosphere.A new paper published in a magazine Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) nexusResearcher Peter Grofman and colleagues studied residential areas in the Baltimore, Maryland, metropolitan area, which drains into the Chesapeake Bay, in an attempt to identify hot spots and times when nitrogen export rates are disproportionately high. did.

“We found that these fertilizers, applied in specific locations and at specific times, are more likely to migrate into water bodies and can have harmful effects, such as algae blooms and decreased oxygen in water. said Grofman, a professor of environmental science at the Center for Advanced Science Research. at New York University Graduate Center and Brooklyn College. “This information can be very helpful for individual residents and municipalities to adjust their lawn care practices to the detriment of the environment and ultimately our health.”

For the study, the authors went to lawns in the suburbs, exurbs, and college campuses of Baltimore and measured nitrogen export to water and air during a simulated rainfall event by adding known amounts of water to the in-situ lawns. I measured it. They also used household survey data collected in 2003, 2011, and 2018 by the Baltimore Ecosystem Study Longitudinal Ecological Survey, as well as a unique push web survey of lawn fertilization practices among 3,836 households in the Baltimore area. used. Their analysis of nitrogen export dynamics in lawns showed large variations, but export hotspots were all found in fertilized rather than unfertilized lawns.

The study also found that 48% of 2018 survey respondents incorrectly believed they did not live in a watershed, and more than 60% of web survey respondents believed that nitrogen negatively impacts local waterways. It turned out that he didn’t know that. Given this knowledge, support for policies that restrict fertilizer use is broadly high among surveyed households, and some types of restrictions are popular even among households that fertilize their lawns. Around half of households would be interested in converting their lawns into facilities that reduce nitrogen export, such as rain gardens, if subsidies were available and it was as easy as possible to do so. According to the authors, changing just 5 to 10 percent of suburban lawns to alternative landscaping could have a significant impact on nitrogen export across the watershed.

“Hydro-biological-geo-sociochemical interactions and the sustainability of residential landscapes” Peter M. Grofman, Amanda K. Suchy, Dexter H. Locke, Robert J. Johnston, David A. Newburn , Arthur J. Gold, Lawrence E. Band, Jonathan Duncan, J. Morgan Grove, Jenny Kao-Kniffin, Harry Meltzer, Tom Ndebele, Jarrus O’Neill-Dunn, Colin Polsky, Grant L. -Thompson, Haoluan Wang, and Ewa Zawoszka.

About New York University Graduate Center Center for Advanced Science Research
The State University of New York Graduate Center Advanced Science Research Center (CUNY ASRC) is a world-leading scientific center of excellence that advances STEM exploration and education within and beyond the State University of New York. CUNY ASRC’s research initiatives span five distinct but broadly interconnected fields: nanoscience, photonics, neuroscience, structural biology, and environmental science. The center promotes a collaborative, interdisciplinary research culture where established and emerging scientists use state-of-the-art equipment and state-of-the-art core facilities to advance discoveries.


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