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  1. Abstract

    A recent publication (Mason et al. in Science 376:261, 2022a) suggested that nitrogen (N) availability has declined as a consequence of multiple ongoing components of anthropogenic global change. This suggestion is controversial, because human alteration of the global N cycle is substantial and has driven much-increased fixation of N globally. We used a simple model that has been validated across a climate gradient in Hawai ‘i to test the possibility of a widespread decline in N availability, the evidence supporting it, and the possible mechanisms underlying it. This analysis showed that a decrease in δ15N is not sufficient evidence for a decline in N availability, because δ15N in ecosystems reflects both the isotope ratios in inputs of N to the ecosystem AND fractionation of N isotopes as N cycles, with enrichment of the residual N in the ecosystem caused by greater losses of N by the fractionating pathways that are more important in N-rich sites. However, there is other evidence for declining N availability that is independent of15N and that suggests a widespread decline in N availability. We evaluated whether and how components of anthropogenic global change could cause declining N availability. Earlier work had demonstrated that both increases in the variability of precipitation due to climate change and ecosystem-level disturbance could drive uncontrollable losses of N that reduce N availability and could cause persistent N limitation at equilibrium. Here we modelled climate-change-driven increases in temperature and increasing atmospheric concentrations of CO2. We show that increasing atmospheric CO2concentrations can drive non-equilibrium decreases in N availability and cause the development of N limitation, while the effects of increased temperature appear to be relatively small and short-lived. These environmental changes may cause reductions in N availability over the vast areas of Earth that are not affected by high rates of atmospheric deposition and/or N enrichment associated with urban and agricultural land use.

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  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 1, 2025
  3. Free, publicly-accessible full text available October 23, 2024
  4. Abstract

    The idea of green infrastructure (GI) has generated great interest and creativity in addressing a range of challenging and expensive environmental problems, from coastal resilience to control of combined sewer overflows (CSOs). The appeal of GI stems from its cost savings compared to traditional “gray” infrastructure and the multiple benefits it provides, including biodiversity, aesthetics, and carbon sequestration. For example, a “green” approach to controlling CSOs in New York City saved $1.5 billion compared to a “gray” approach. Despite these advantages, GI still does not have detailed design and reliability specifications as compared to engineered gray infrastructure, potentially hindering its adoption. In this paper, we review some of the potential applications of GI in modern environmental science and discuss how reliability and associated (un)certainty in net benefits need to be addressed to realize the potential of this new approach.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 1, 2024
  5. Abstract

    Land-use change is highly dynamic globally and there is great uncertainty about the effects of land-use legacies on contemporary environmental performance. We used a chronosequence of urban grasslands (lawns) that were converted from agricultural and forested lands from 10 to over 130 years prior to determine if land-use legacy influences components of soil biodiversity and composition over time. We used historical aerial imagery to identify sites in Baltimore County, MD (USA) with agricultural versus forest land-use history. Soil samples were taken from these sites as well as from existing well-studied agricultural and forest sites used as historical references by the National Science Foundation Long-Term Ecological Research Baltimore Ecosystem Study program. We found that the microbiomes in lawns of agricultural origin were similar to those in agricultural reference sites, which suggests that the ecological parameters on lawns and reference agricultural systems are similar in how they influence soil microbial community dynamics. In contrast, lawns that were previously forest showed distinct shifts in soil bacterial composition upon recent conversion but reverted back in composition similar to forest soils as the lawns aged over decades. Soil fungal communities shifted after forested land was converted to lawns, but unlike bacterial communities, did not revert in composition over time. Our results show that components of bacterial biodiversity and composition are resistant to change in previously forested lawns despite urbanization processes. Therefore land-use legacy, depending on the prior use, is an important factor to consider when examining urban ecological homogenization.

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  6. Free, publicly-accessible full text available November 16, 2024
  7. Soil atmosphere fluxes of the trace gases; carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrous oxide (N2O) and methane (CH4) have been measured at several locations at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest (HBEF) including 1) the “freeze” study reference plots that provide contrast between stands dominated (80%) by sugar maple versus yellow birch and low and high elevation areas, 2) the Bear Brook Watershed where trace gas sampling is coordinated with long-term monitoring of microbial biomass and activity and 3) watershed 1 where trace gas sampling locations were co-located with long-term microbial biomass and activity monitoring sites that are located near a subset of the lysimeter sites established for the calcium addition study on this watershed. This dataset contains the Watershed 1 and Bear Brook data. Freeze plot trace gas can be found in: These data were gathered as part of the Hubbard Brook Ecosystem Study (HBES). The HBES is a collaborative effort at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest, which is operated and maintained by the USDA Forest Service, Northern Research Station. 
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  8. The Baltimore Ecosystem Study (BES) established a network of long-term permanent biogeochemical study plots in 1998. These plots provide long-term data on vegetation, soil and hydrologic processes in the key ecosystem types within the urban ecosystem. The network of study plots includes forest plots (upland and riparian), chosen to represent the range of forest conditions in the area and grass plots (to represent home lawns). Plots are instrumented with lysimeters (drainage and tension) to sample soil solution chemistry, time domain reflectometry probes to measure soil moisture, dataloggers to measure and record soil temperature, and trace gas flux chambers to measure the flux of carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane from soil to the atmosphere. Measurements of in situ nitrogen mineralization, nitrification and denitrification were made at approximately monthly intervals from Fall 1998 - Fall 2000. Detailed vegetation characterization (all layers) was done in summer 1998 and 2015. Data from these plots has been published in Groffman et al. (2006, 2009), Groffman and Pouyat (2009), Savva et al. (2010), Costa and Groffman (2013), Duncan et al. (2013), Waters et al. (2014), Ni and Groffman (2018), Templeton et al. (2019). Literature Cited Costa, K.H. and P.M. Groffman. 2013. Factors regulating net methane flux in urban forests and grasslands. Soil Science Society of America Journal 77:850 - 855. Duncan, J. M., L. E. Band, and P. M. Groffman. 2013. Towards closing the watershed nitrogen budget: Spatial and temporal scaling of denitrification. Journal of Geophysical Research Biogeosciences 118:1-5; DOI: 10.1002/jgrg.20090 Groffman PM, Pouyat RV, Cadenasso ML, Zipperer WC, Szlavecz K, Yesilonis IC,. Band LE and Brush GS. 2006. Land use context and natural soil controls on plant community composition and soil nitrogen and carbon dynamics in urban and rural forests. Forest Ecology and Management 236:177-192. Groffman, P.M., C.O. Williams, R.V. Pouyat, L.E. Band and I.C. Yesilonis. 2009. Nitrate leaching and nitrous oxide flux in urban forests and grasslands. Journal of Environmental Quality 38:1848-1860. Groffman, P.M. and R.V. Pouyat. 2009. Methane uptake in urban forests and lawns. Environmental Science and Technology 43:5229-5235. DOI: 10.1021/es803720h. Ni, X. and P.M. Groffman. 2018. Declines in methane uptake in forest soils. Proceedings of the National Academies of Science of the United States of America 115:8587-8590. Savva, Y., K. Szlavecz, R. V. Pouyat, P. M. Groffman, and G. Heisler. 2010. Effects of land use and vegetation cover on soil temperature in an urban ecosystem. Soil Science Society of America Journal 74:469-480. Templeton, L., M.L. Cadenasso, J. Sullivan, M. Neel and P.M. Groffman. 2019. Changes in vegetation structure and composition of urban and rural forest patches in Baltimore from 1998 to 2015. Forest Ecology and Management. In press. Waters, E.R., J.L. Morse, N.D. Bettez and P.M. Groffman. 2014. Differential carbon and nitrogen controls of denitrification in riparian zones and streams along an urban to exurban gradient. Journal of Environmental Quality 43:955–963. 
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