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Keywords:

  • lawns;
  • runoff monitoring;
  • developed areas;
  • nutrients;
  • residential;
  • throughfall

Spence, Porchè L., Deanna L. Osmond, Wesley Childres, Joshua L. Heitman, and Wayne P. Robarge, 2012. Effects of Lawn Maintenance on Nutrient Losses Via Overland Flow During Natural Rainfall Events. Journal of the American Water Resources Association (JAWRA) 48(5): 909-924. DOI: 10.1111/j.1752-1688.2012.00658.x

Abstract:  A sampling system was used to evaluate the effect of residential lawn management on nutrient losses via overland flow generated during natural rainfall events from three residential landscapes: a high maintenance fescue lawn (HMFL), a low maintenance fescue lawn (LMFL), and a mixed forested residential landscape (FRL). A sampling system was located in designated areas within each landscape such that 100% of the runoff follows natural flow paths to the outlet ports and collects in sterile Nalgene® B3 media bags (Thermo Fisher Scientific, Rochester, NY). A rainfall event was defined as producing ≥2.54 mm of water. A total of 87 rainfall events occurred during a 20-month monitoring period. The total runoff volume collected from the LMFL was higher than from the HMFL and FRL, but on average <1% of the total rainfall was collected from the three landscapes. Mean nitrate concentrations from each lawn did not exceed 0.6 mg N/l. Nutrient unit area losses from the HMFL, LMFL, and FRL were 1,000 times less than fertilizer and throughfall inputs, which were due to the presence of well-structured soils (low bulk densities) with high infiltration rates. This study demonstrated that the frequency of runoff, total runoff volumes, and nutrient losses during natural rainfall events are lower from highly maintained (i.e., irrigation, fertilizer application, and reseeding) densely uniform manicured lawns than low maintenance lawns and forested residential landscapes.