Urban Soils

What if I live in a city? 


city farming
This is a composite image showing a newly emerging crop on a background of skyscrapers

New York City was once a vast woodland, Kansas City was a grassland, and a majority of New Orleans was swampy. People change things in order to build, farm, and grow. Soils maps did not come into existance until the 1900's, therefore, cities that were built before that may not have soil to classify like the rest of the country. However, all urban soils can be considered anthropogenic (changes due to men). Even if they were originally classfied as something else based on their original biomes, most of the soils found in recently developed land can be considered Entisols or Inceptisols. 


Cities exist is all climatic zones. Some, like Chicago, are fairly flat, and can grow outward without drastically changing the landscape. Others in hilly or mountainous regions involve a lot of cutting and filling to level out land for roads, houses, and shopping centers. Even if these soils are not recognizible from their original format, rest assured that they form an important foundation to the buildings and roads on top of them.



humans are an organism
Humans make a lot of changes to the landscape with cranes, digging soils and changing things.

Humans are a major organism. An inventive one that brings cranes, backhoes, and new technology.


Relief and Parent Materials

The Secaucus series is one that is found in New Jersey and New York, and is classified as an entisol (newly formed soil), with the surface texture of a  artifactual fine sandy loam (with human traces).  

In some areas, like Housten TX, they are called Urban lands. Some areas list fill material (for building) or concrete as being in the soil, and others just classify them as cities. In all of these areas, the soils would not be allowed to re-form horizons after they had been filled. They are also paved over, which reduces their weathering.


The Secaucus series consists of very deep, moderately well drained soils with moderately low through moderately high saturated hydraulic conductivity. These soils formed in a thick mantle of human transported material consisting of a mixture of construction debris and other fill materials. These soils occur on anthropogenic landforms in and near major urbanized areas of the Northeast. Slope ranges from 0 to 8 percent. Mean annual temperature is 13 degrees Celsius and mean annual precipitation is about 1196 millimeters.


Problems with Urban Soils

A lot of neighborhoods are tearing down old buildings and replacing them with parks and urban gardens. However, these areas may be contaminated by chemical pollutants. Salt from the winter roads, oil and chemical spills from cars, and other sources may make it dangerous to work with.

Back to Around the World

For more evidence of how humans impact the soil, visit the engineering and urban page, and the human/soils interaction page.