Baltimore Ecosystem Study Institute of Ecosystem Studies

2014 BES Annual Meeting Presentation and Poster Abstracts

A multi-city comparison of urban soil ecosystems
Szlavecz, Katalin
Co-Authors: R.V. Pouyat, S. Cilliers, Cs.Csuzdi, M. Dombos, E. Hornung, D.J. Kotze, S. Mishra, H. Setšlš, D.E. Schmidt, S.A. Yarwood, I.D. Yesilonis,

Abstract: Urban soils form a continuum of human effects and provide excellent opportunities to study anthropogenic impact on soil ecosystem services. We have recently initiated a Global Urban Soil Ecological and Education Network to answer the following questions: (1) What is the response of community structure and decay rates in urban soils at local, regional and global scales? (2) Do differences in soil biodiversity relate to functional changes in the decomposer subsystem? In a pilot study we conducted experiments in five cities. We assessed soil characteristics, earthworm and microbial communities in four habitat types. To follow decomposition rates we deployed nylon teabags as a common substrate. In cities with forest as the native habitat, we detected similar trends: soil organic matter concentration was lower, and pH was higher in the disturbed than in the reference sites. Among cities, absolute differences were higher in the reference sites than in the ruderal sites: for SOM 47.05% and 1.99% and for pH 2.1% and 0.7%, respectively. NMS ordination of 16S (Bacterial and Archaeal) sequences revealed a strong separation of Baltimore from the rest of the cities. Within cities, microbial communities were strongly correlated both with SOM and pH. In both managed and disturbed soils, anthropogenic effects dominate natural soil forming factors. Soil communities partially reflect this, but biogeographical factors still play a role. Some of our protocols are suitable for citizen science projects, and thus a useful way to engage the public while at the same time provide useful data on urban landscapes.