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Putting Carbon in Putting Greens
Qian, Y. and Follett, R.F.  2002.  Assessing soil carbon sequestration in turfgrass systems using long-term soil testing data.  Agronomy Journal 94: 930-935.

What was done
The authors compiled nearly 700 data sets on previous land use, soil texture, grass species and type, fertilization rate, irrigation and other management practices for fairways and putting greens on a number of golf courses ranging in age from 1.5 to 45 years, after which they generated nonlinear regression models to predict rates of soil organic matter (SOM) buildup beneath the two surface types to help identify factors important to carbon sequestration in urban grasslands.

What was learned
SOM buildup was largely linear for the first 30 years following turfgrass establishment for putting greens and for the first 25 years for fairways, after which SOM contents began to level off, as they approached asymptotic limits on the order of 4% of the total weight of the top 11.4 cm of soil.  Over the period of SOM buildup, rates of carbon sequestration were approximately one ton per hectare per year.

What it means
Considering home lawns, parks, commercial landscapes, recreational facilities, golf courses and greenbelts, the authors figure that turfgrasses cover about 20 million hectares of land in the United States.  Furthermore, they calculate that these urban landscapes have the capacity to sequester between 12 to 15 million tons of carbon per year over a period of 25 to 30 years, which they say is comparable to the 13 million tons of carbon per year estimated to be sequestered by Conservation Reserve Program lands in the United States.  Hence, they conclude that "urban landscapes provide an important sink to help offset carbon emissions in the USA."

Reviewed 2 October 2002