DEVELOPING SUSTAINABLE TURFGRASS MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS FOR THE URBAN ENVIRONMENT
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With the major shift from rural to urban population centers occurring in recent decades, agricultural landscapes continue to be converted into urban metropolitan centers at a record pace. Urbanization has altered the soil ecosystem by increasing impervious surfaces, increasing storm water runoff volumes, and altering the hydrology of plant communities. Turfgrass has become the dominant component of many urban landscapes due to its functionality in athletic fields, golf courses, home lawns, and landscapes. In fact, in the United States, turfgrass has become the single largest irrigated crop. Turfgrasses offer numerous recreational and environmental benefits including erosion control, heat mitigation, and biological filtration of contaminants in effluent and rainwater. Despite this, pressures to conserve water and reduce fertilizer/ pesticide usage continue to be targeted to turfgrass systems, and a greater emphasis has been placed on the efficient use of resources (fertilizer, water, etc.). More recently, alternative plant communities (i.e. native grass mixtures, etc.), water-efficient xeriscapes, and even synthetic turf lawns have gained popularity with consumers for use within urban areas, based on the presumption of lower maintenance and inputs required. Municipalities and water purveyors have even promoted and incentivized such landscape conversions away from turfgrass in recent years, with little consideration given to the unintended consequences both from an environmental as well as ecosystem services standpoint. More than ever, scientific information is needed pertaining to ecosystem services and best management practices for greater sustainability of urban landscape ecosystems including turfgrass, as well as approaches to minimizing long-term environmental impacts from them.