Rain Basin Design Implications for Soil Microbial Activity and N-mineralization in a Semi-arid Environment

Monday, 15 December 2014
Chelsea Stern1,2 and Mitchell Pavao-Zuckerman2, (1)SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse, NY, United States, (2)University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, United States
Rain basins have been an increasingly popular Green Infrastructure (GI) solution to the redistribution of water flow caused by urbanization. This study was conducted to examine how different approaches to basin design, specifically mulching (gravel vs. compost and gravel), influence the water availability of rain basins and the effects this has on the soil microbial activity of the basins. Soil microbes are a driving force of biogeochemical process and may impact the carbon and nitrogen dynamics of rain basin GI. In this study we sampled 12 different residential-scale rain basins, differing in design established at Biosphere 2, Arizona in 2013. Soil samples and measurements were collected before and after the onset of the monsoon season in 2014 to determine how the design of basins mediates the transition from dry to wet conditions. Soil abiotic factors were measured, such as moisture content, soil organic matter (SOM) content, texture and pH, and were related to the microbial biomass size within the basins. Field and lab potential N-mineralization and soil respiration were measured to determine how basin design influences microbial activity and N dynamics. We found that pre-monsoon basins with compost had higher moisture contents and that there was a positive correlation between the moisture content and the soil microbial biomass size of the basins. Pre-monsoon data also suggests that N-mineralization rates for basins with compost were higher than those with only gravel. These design influences on basin-scale biogeochemical dynamics and nitrogen retention may have important implications for urban biogeochemistry at neighborhood and watershed scales.