Urban Soils: Temperature Extremes and Moderating Soil Temperature

Trees in Extreme soil Temps
Credit: Raina Sheridan

Temperature extremes can alter the chemical and biological characteristics of soils. Urban locations often have higher soil temperatures than rural areas because of the heat that is absorbed by and reflected from buildings, sidewalks, streets, and vehicles. This is the “heat-island” effect.

Temperature differences also occur in a city because of the height of the buildings or directions of the streets (north/south or east/west). High air temperature raises the temperature of the soil. A lack of mulch and other debris on top of the soil also influences the soil temperature.

Mulching is one of the easiest ways to reduce extreme soil temperature.

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By: Ed Macie, Regional Urban Forester, USFS Southern Region