Biosolids and Compost For Urban Soil Restoration and Forestry

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Elements of urban soil quality such as compaction and low organic matter are underexamined, important challenges to urban afforestation. In this Beltsville, Maryland field experiment, I examined biosolids and compost as amendments to improve soil quality and planted tree survival in a degraded urban proxy soil and identified correlations between soil properties and tree survival. Organic amendments increased organic matter content, decreased bulk density, and had no effect on tree survivorship compared to controls. Effects on soil were more profound and lasting with compost than with biosolids. Soil organic matter and bulk density were correlated with tree survival early in the study and microbial respiration was correlated with tree survival throughout the study. High tree mortality was driven by transplant shock, limiting insights from tree response data. This study highlights the importance of soil quality and good planting practices in future research.