An Analysis of the Total Ecology of Lawn Maintenance in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed

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The Chesapeake Bay faces a multitude of pressures today from pollution sources, the most pressing being the influx of excessive nutrients. Effluent from waste water treatment plants, animal waste from concentrated animal feeding operations, and agricultural fertilizer are jointly responsible for nutrient loading in the Chesapeake Bay. An often overlooked and even less understood culprit is home lawn fertilization. Of these nutrient contributors, residential turf is the most fragmented and has the largest number of owners, making nutrient inputs from home lawns the most difficult to understand, measure, and regulate. Home lawns from Virginia to upstate New York, from West Virginia to Delaware – 2.85 million acres of green lawns – contribute to the nutrient loading that has so severely degraded the Chesapeake Bay’s waters To better understand all the factors affecting lawn maintenance I take a holistic approach and analyze the total ecology of the issue, including the human, biophysical, and institutional ecologies. First, the human ecology of lawn care is explored to understand the social norms and pressures that determine lawn maintenance behavior. Second, the biophysical ecology of fertilizer nutrients is explored through a literature review. Third, the institutional ecology is defined with a description of the relevant governing bodies and current legal mandates regulating lawn maintenance. This section focuses on a review of the mechanisms used by ten states in recently passed legislation to reduce nutrient pollution from home lawn fertilization. The purpose of this paper is to bring together the human, natural science, management, and policy components of the lawn maintenance issue so as to obtain a comprehensive view of the existing knowledge and structure and of the gaps that need to be filled. The goal of this report is to aid state legislators in understanding the lawn maintenance issue and in refining and passing lawn fertilizer bills similar to those recently enacted by ten states in an effort to reduce nutrient pollution specifically from lawn fertilizers. Lawn fertilizer is only one of many contributing factors degrading water quality, but every reduction of pollution sources, however small, helps to improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay. Strict lawn fertilizer laws regulating lawn maintenance behavior can contribute to the effort to achieve healthier water bodies and a healthier Bay.





Junkin, Isabel (2011). An Analysis of the Total Ecology of Lawn Maintenance in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from

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