With Suburbanization Comes Homogenization, Down to the Soil

Judging from aerial views alone, you might find it hard to tell the difference between Philadelphia and Chicago. Or Miami and Phoenix. Or San Diego and just about any Levittown.

That’s because development of suburbs, cities, and exurbs has smoothed out geographic differences across the United States. Despite the country’s climatic diversity, vast areas feature road patterns, residential lots, commercial areas, and aquatic features that are similar — and far more alike than the natural ecosystems they replace.

Peter Groffman, professor with the Environmental Sciences Initiative at the Advanced Science Research Center (ASRC) of The Graduate Center, CUNY, explored the effects of this homogenization on plant biodiversity, soil and nutrient processing, microclimate, and hydrography at the continental scale in a study published by Nature Ecology & Evolution.

Groffman and his research partners found that soil varied less among residential sites in Baltimore, Minneapolis, Los Angeles, and several other cities, compared with nearby undeveloped areas that served as reference sites.

“While urban land use occupies a relatively small area of the Earth’s surface, suburban and exurban land use cover much larger areas,” Groffman said in a recent article by the ASRC. “Moreover, urbanization has impacts on processes such as plant community assembly and ecosystem function far beyond residential parcels and landscapes that are evident at regional and continental scales.”

Beyond SUM

Explore This Work
Ecological homogenization of residential macrosystems
Nature Ecology & Evolution, 2017

Work By
Peter Groffman (Professor, Environmental Science) | Profile

Colleges and Schools
The Graduate Center

Bonus Content
Groffman’s Study into Urban Ecosystem Homogenization published in Nature Ecology & Evolution (ASRC News)

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