Urban 'green' Space May Aid Global Warming

IRVINE, Calif., Jan. 26 (UPI) — A University of California-Irvine study suggests urban “green” areas might be aggravating the formation of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.

Dispelling the notion that such “green” spaces help counteract greenhouse gas emissions, the researchers found — at least in Southern California — total emissions would be lower if lawns did not exist.

Turf grass lawns help remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis and store it as organic carbon in soil, making such lawns important “carbon sinks.” However, the scientists found greenhouse gas emissions from fertilizer production, mowing, leaf blowing and other lawn management practices are four times greater than the amount of carbon stored by ornamental grass in parks.

The research results are important to greenhouse gas legislation, said the study’s lead author, Amy Townsend-Small.

“We need this kind of carbon accounting to help reduce global warming,” Townsend-Small said. “The current trend is to count the carbon sinks and forget about the greenhouse gas emissions, but it clearly isn’t enough.”

She said while previous studies have documented lawns storing carbon, the new study is the first to compare carbon sequestration to nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide emissions from lawn grooming practices.

The findings appear in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

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