be Carbon "Sink"
June 3, 2003
The turfgrass found on golf courses,
lawns and public parks may have a benefit hidden under the surface. Soil
scientists from the Agricultural Research
Service and Colorado State University (CSU) have found that turfgrass may
serve as a "sink" for storing carbon dioxide in the soil.
Many ARS researchers have found that both rangeland and farmland can act as
a carbon soil sink. In this process, some of the CO2 from the atmosphere is
captured by plant photosynthesis and trapped in the soil, helping mitigate the
greenhouse effect. This study is one of the first to measure this process,
called carbon sequestration, in an urban setting.
Ron Follett of ARS' Soil-Plant-Nutrient
Research Unit in Fort Collins, Colo., and Yaling Qian of CSU studied 16
soil records from golf courses in the Denver area, some of which go back 45
years. They found that carbon sequestration lasts for up to 31 years in
fairways and 45 years in greens, after which the rates slow or become
negligible. While carbon sequestration exists on tees, it was not nearly as
much as occurs on the fairways and greens, and the researchers are still
investigating the reasons for this difference.
The researchers also noticed that a rapid increase in carbon sequestration
occurs in the first 25-30 years after the turfgrass is established. The study
found that nearly a ton of carbon per acre per year is stored in the soil of
fairways and one ton per acre of carbon for greens.
The scientists are using computer models to figure out the potential rates
for carbon sequestration on golf courses. They are also conducting a more
detailed evaluation of soil samples in fairways and the irrigated and
nonirrigated rough on golf courses.
More information about this research can be found in the
June issue of
Agricultural Research magazine.
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.