Jennifer Jenkins of the University of Vermont urged scientists at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union to increase their study of suburbia.
Jenkins is involved in a study of suburban yards near Baltimore attempting to see how much carbon diozide the lawns absorb and give off.
Ecologists have alwaystudied forests and bogs, deserts and tundra and rain forest, but only recently did they turn to suburbia, perhaps because people-dominated landscapes are so complicated and always changing, or maybe they're just less exotic places to work.
Suburban sprawl has profound influences on the environment. According to one study, more than 43,000 square miles of the United States is paved or built upon, an area roughly the size of Ohio. This pavement increases runnoff of rainwater that would otherwise soak into the ground. This increased runoff sweeps up fertilizers used on lawns and gardens, contributing to the growth of dead zones in rivers and bays.
Scientists hope to use their findings to design more environmentally friendly suburbs. Pavements that absorb some water, rain barrels that catch runoff water, or sod roofs could help control polluting runoff.
One scientist commented; "We have to be patient. It's taken us 100 years to get into this state of having messed things up. It's going to take us a little time to recover."
Unfortunately we likely won't have 100 years to solve the problem.