Nutrient Biogeochemistry of Urban Systems

  • Dennis P. SwaneyEmail author


This chapter highlights some of the features of nutrient flows through urban areas. Cities represent foci of human activity and are thus centers of resource consumption. Anthropogenic contributions of nutrients (mainly nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P)), and especially their consumption as food in urban areas, are associated with nutrient loads in human waste, which is channeled to waste treatment facilities, to landfills, and, ultimately, to the regional environment. Other significant contributions include atmospheric N deposition associated with industrial and vehicular combustion processes and N and P fertilizer applied to urban lawns and gardens. The concentration of these nutrients in urban regions, combined with their rapid movement in water flows facilitated by the impervious surfaces and drainage networks of cities, results in high nutrient loads to local and regional waters. Intensification of storm events in future climate scenarios should exacerbate potential nutrient flows from cities. High N and P loads, especially when out of balance with other nutrients such as silicon (Si), represent problems for water quality management.


Urban ecosystem Stormwater Nitrogen Phosphorus Silicon Ecosystem metabolism Foodshed 



I thank Karin Limburg for her careful reading of the manuscript and her suggestions, which improved the final version.

Supplementary material

458872_1_En_9_MOESM1_ESM.docx (164 kb)
Field_Exercise_7_NitrogenFlux In the Urban Ecosystem (DOCX 165 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyCornell UniversityIthacaUSA

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