Soil Quality Assessment Is a Necessary First Step for Designing Urban Green Infrastructure
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This paper describes the results of a preliminary project conducted by a team of DePaul University undergraduate students and staff from the Gary Comer Youth Center located on Chicago's South Side. The team assessed soil quality on 116 samples collected among four abandoned residential lots adjacent to the Comer Center. Soil quality data will be used in a follow-up study to determine the suitability of each lot for green infrastructure implementation. Green infrastructure may be a useful approach for providing ecosystem services and mitigating food deserts in inner-city communities. Soil quality on all lots was poor. All soils had pH >8.0, low biological activity, and low N mineralization potential. The soils were rich in available P and had mean total Pb concentrations above the USEPA threshold (400 mg kg) for children's playlots. Mean bioavailable Pb on the largest of the four lots was 12% of total Pb, indicating that most of the total Pb is not bioavailable. This result is encouraging because high bioavailable Pb concentrations are linked with negative health effects, particularly in children. All lots had NO-N concentrations below those considered to be appropriate for plant growth. On the other hand, no significant differences in mean concentrations of the other analytes were found. The poor soil quality in the four lots presents an opportunity to use green infrastructure to enhance ecosystem services, improve community and environmental health, and provide more equitable access to green space.
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