Baltimore Ecosystem Study Institute of Ecosystem Studies

2017 BES Annual Meeting Presentation and Poster Abstracts

Soil biodiversity in West Baltimore vacant lots
Szlavecz, Katalin
Co-Authors: H. Setšlš, J. Kotze, I. Yesilonis, A. Dec, C. Cayon, C.-H. Chang, C. Swan

Abstract: Baltimore has over 17 000 vacant lots that can provide many ecosystem services. To test how plant biodiversity mediates such ecosystem services, the Baltimore Wildflower Project was initiated in 2013. Keeping species richness constant, functional and phylogenetic diversity of herbaceous vegetation was manipulated on 25 vacant lots. We explored the connection between above- and belowground biodiversity by assessing community structure of the soil micro- and macrofauna beneath the plant communities. Specifically we sampled nematodes, ground beetles, isopods, millipedes and earthworms. Additionally, we collected data on site history and analyzed the soil physical and chemical properties. In general, parcel-to-parcel variability of both biotic and abiotic data was high. Bacterial feeding nematodes were more abundant than fungal feeding nematodes, which indicate disturbed soil. Abundance of these two groups showed some treatment effect. Altogether 11 species of earthworms have been recorded, some for the first time in the region. This is high species richness for such a small area. Beta diversity was high both for earthworms and isopods. Soil organic matter, pH, nutrient and metal contents varied among parcels, however proximity mattered. Parcels closer together were more similar than far apart in abiotic properties, such as soil Na, K, Ca, Si, and Zn concentrations, indicating similar age or management. After just a few years of plant community establishment, these abiotic factors as well as location and age of vacant lots, but not vegetation structure appear to determine soil community composition. Future monitoring will reveal if linkages between above- and belowground communities strengthen over time.