Does the fact that most fallen leaves in urban environments are swept up and thrown away damage the local ecology?

It seems a lot of the leaves that fall off trees in urban environments are swept up by homeowners or street sweepers. I’m wondering if this lack of leaf decay in urban and suburban environments have negative environmental consequences?



  1. 0 Votes

    It certainly can have a negative impact on the local ecology if proper care isn’t taken.  Although defining exactly what you mean by “local ecology” is important to answering this question.  If you mean the urban ecosystem within the city responsible for sweeping up the leaves, then I would say that sprawl and irresponsibly managed development are already vastly worse for the local ecology than any practices relating to the disposal of fallen leaves.  If you’re more thinking of the ecosystems outside of the urban areas, than I would say that they probably are impacted at a very limited level as the leaves swept up in urban environments wouldn’t necessarily fall outside of city limits naturally anyways.  In any case, if you’re urban area has a decent enough parks department and your state has a well functioning department of ecology, proper care is normally taken to ensure the proper fertilization and care of local ecosystems within city limits.  That was a bit of a mouthful, but I hope that answers your question!

  2. 0 Votes

    Maybe no.

    If the street department or bureau of solid waste delivers the leaves to a faciliy where they are composted, and the compost is redistributed to parks and made available for landscapers and homeowners to use in yards and lawns, there is little negative environmental impact. Keeping the leaves out of the city’s sewer system reduces the chances of back-ups into people’s basements and streets. I live in a city that operates an “organic resources” facility.(Grass clippings also are composted; branches and fallen trees become mulch.0

    If the leaves are dumped into a river or a landfill, the resource is wasted. I’ve heard that some cities truck leaves to nearby farms where they can be tilled into the soil.

    Probably the answer is yes in most cases. People tend to use chemical fertilizer instead of compost in their gardens and lawns to replace nutrients absorbed in the growth, cutting, raking and disposal process. Some of the fertilizer runs off and degrades the rivers, ponds and lakes where it ends up. Increased demand for urban– and suburban– lawn fertilization tends to drive up the cost for farmers too, and the cost of natural gas (used in fertilizer production) increases for all of us who use it for heating our interior environments.



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