Projecting the urbanization effect on soil organic carbon stocks in polar and steppe areas of European Russia by remote sensing

This paper describes the effect of urbanization on soil organic carbon (SOC) stocks by projecting the main urban land cover classes over the initial pre-urban soil maps. Two cities different in climate and soil conditions as well as in availability of SOC data were chosen as the case studies. Rostov-on-Don is the center of Russian South, where croplands and natural steppes have been conventionally thoroughly studied by soil scientists. In contrast, soils of Murmansk located in Russian Arctics have always been overlooked due to low suitability for agriculture. Global, national and regional soil maps and databases were used to estimate pre-urban SOC stocks in the areas. The outcomes based on Harmonized World Soil Database were highly uncertain, underestimating 0-100 cm SOC stocks in the polar region and overestimating them in the steppe region, whereas the results based on Digital Soil Map of Russia and regional maps were comparable. Land cover structures of Rostov-on-Don and Murmansk were mapped based on the stepwise per-pixel and sub-pixel classification algorithms applied to Sentinel-2 and included the following classes: sealed soils, green lawns, trees and shrubs, bare soils and water. Murmansk was dominated by trees and shrubs (58.1%) with the proportion of area 17.5% covered by sealed soils. In Rostov-on-Don, less than 30% of the total area was covered by trees and shrubs which is also comparable with bare soils (19.6%)_and lawns (23.4%), whereas almost one third of the territory was sealed (27.6%). These land cover structures had a different impact on the topsoil SOC stocks: a 30-50% increase in Murmansk compared to the 18% decrease in Rostov-on-Don. An increase of the 0-100 cm SOC stocks was shown for both regions, however in the polar conditions it was two times higher compared to the steppe. In polar conditions, conversion of natural soils into urban non-sealed soils increased SOC stocks from 30% to more than 4 times in 0-10 cm layer and from 47% to almost 3 times in the 0-100 cm layer. The highest increase was reported for the lawns, whereas SOC under trees and shrublands were considerably lower. In Rostov-on-Don, sealed and bare soils stored less SOC compared to the initial natural soils. The conversion of natural areas into urban green infrastructure increased SOC up to 50-70%. Although the absolute SOC values based on the global and national legacy data are highly uncertain, especially for the polar areas, the research outcomes clearly reveal possible patterns in SOC changes induced by different urbanization pathways in contrast climatic conditions and highlight the complexity of the urbanization effect on soils © 2021 Elsevier B.V.

  • 1 Department of Landscape Design and Sustainable Ecosystems, Agrarian-Technological Institute, Peoples Friendship University of Russia (RUDN University), 6 Miklukho-Maklaya St, Moscow, 117198, Russian Federation
  • 2 Southern Federal University, Bol'shaya Sadovaya str., 105/42, Rostov-on-Don, 344006, Russian Federation
  • 3 Institute of Geography, Russian Academy of Sciences, Staromonetny lane, 29, Moscow, 119017, Russian Federation
  • 4 Institute of North Industrial Ecology Problems — Subdivision of the Federal Research Centre, Kola Science Centre of Russian Academy of Sciences, Akademgorodok, 14A, Apatity, 184209, Russian Federation
  • 5 Faculty of Soil Science, Lomonosov Moscow State University, 119991, GSP-1, 1-12 Leninskie Gory, Moscow, Russian Federation
Digital soil maps; Forest tundra; Land cover classification; Soil organic carbon stocks; Soil sealing; Steppe; Urbanization
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