The nature of urban soils and their role in ecological restoration in cities

Mitchell A. Pavao-Zuckerman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

143 Scopus citations


Current and predicted trends indicate that an increasing proportion of the world's population is living in urban and suburban places. The nature of the urban environment becomes an important factor if we are concerned with the restoration and preservation of biodiversity and ecosystems in and around cities. This article highlights the varied impacts of cities on soils and their implications for restoration planning and expectations of restoration "success." Urban soils exist in different historical and formational trajectories than their local nonurbanized counterparts due to direct anthropogenic disturbance and indirect environmental impacts from urbanization. Therefore, urban soils often exhibit altered physical, chemical, and biological characteristics in comparison to local nonurbanized soils. Several unique features of urban soils and urban ecosystems pose particular issues for ecological restoration or the improvement of degraded soil conditions in cities. The creation of novel soil types, conditions that promote invasion by non-natives, the strong influence of past land use on soil properties, and the presence of strong interactions and alternative stable states set up unique difficulties for the restoration of urban soils. Soils in urban restorations are a medium that can be deliberately manipulated to improve site conditions or in the monitoring of soil conditions as indices of ecosystem status. Including an explicit role for strong manipulations of soils in urban ecosystems changes how we approach baselines, management, and reference conditions in urban ecological restoration. With an understanding of urban soil ecological knowledge, we can guide aspects of urban ecological restoration toward successful outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)642-649
Number of pages8
JournalRestoration Ecology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Resilience
  • Soil formation
  • Urban ecology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


Dive into the research topics of 'The nature of urban soils and their role in ecological restoration in cities'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this