The residential landscape: Fluxes of elements and the role of household decisions

Cinzia Fissore, Sarah E. Hobbie, Jennifer Y. King, Joseph P. McFadden, Kristen C. Nelson, Lawrence A. Baker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


We assessed biogeochemical cycling of elements through residential household landscapes to evaluate the importance of annual to decadal household-level decisions for element fluxes that contribute to urban and regional pollution. We combined a mailed survey, vegetation measurements, and allometric and biogeochemical models to estimate fluxes and accumulation of carbon (C), nitrogen (N), and phosphorus (P) in landscapes of 360 single-family homes in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Minnesota metropolitan area. Carbon inputs and accumulation were strongly influenced by the presence of trees on the property. Nitrogen inputs to the landscape exceeded estimated ecosystem demand for N on average by 51% and were dominated by N fertilizer application. Because Minnesota state law restricts the use of P fertilizer, pet waste was responsible for 84% of P inputs to the landscape. The results have implications for understanding sources of urban pollution and the potential flexibility (i. e., the potential for change) in household behaviors such as tree planting, fertilization, and pet waste management that contribute to such pollution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalUrban Ecosystems
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments This research was supported by the National Science Foundation Dynamics of Coupled Natural and Human Systems Program (BCS-0709581, BCS-0908549, BCS-0908998) and Long-Term Ecological Research Program (DEB-0620652). We thank the large number of homeowners who responded to our survey and gave us permission to make measurements on their property. We thank our geographic information systems and database specialists, Ina Jakobsdottir and A. Slaats, for their invaluable support, our field crew: B. Bobbitt, C. Buyarski, M. Kemp, T. Knudson, P. Koenig, T. Kraft, M. Ranniger, G. Rubenstein, J. Schubert, and A. Thone, and C. Lee, S. Grayzeck, and A. Woodside for survey coordination and data entry. We also thank D. Nidzgorski and S. Panzer Wein for their useful comments.

Copyright 2012 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Biogeochemistry
  • Carbon
  • Nitrogen
  • Phosphorus
  • Turfgrass lawn
  • Urban ecology


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