Urban Soil Biodiversity: A New Frontier in Ecological Science and Education
Tuesday, August 11, 2015: 8:00 AM-11:30 AM
340, Baltimore Convention Center
Katalin Szlavecz, Johns Hopkins University
Richard V. Pouyat, USDA Forest Service; and
Stephanie Yarwood, University of Maryland
Tara L. E. Trammell, University of Delaware
Biodiversity as an ecological concept is difficult for people to personally experience due in part to the fact that the majority of humans now live in urban areas. Moreover, the role of extremely diverse soil biota is often overlooked in assessing soil ecosystem services. Indeed, for much of the terrestrial ecosystems of the world, soil community structure and function reflect both natural and human disturbance and stress. For example, logging, agriculture, urbanization, and human caused environmental change can dramatically alter the species composition of soil biota and thus how these soils function. However, not much is known about the structure and function of soil communities in response to human effects, and whether these effects are similar across regional and global scales. For example, are urban soil processes and communities more similar across global scales than the native soil ecosystems replaced by urban development? This organized oral session will highlight what we suggest is a relatively new frontier in the ecological sciences—urban soil ecology and the biodiversity of soils in urban landscapes, and how investigations of soil biodiversity and functioning in urban soils represent an excellent opportunity to educate the public on the importance of biological diversity and ecology in general.
The first presentation will examine the importance of soil biodiversity from a global perspective to be followed by a history of research addressing the relationship of soil biodiversity and function. The next presentation will explore ways in which urban soil ecological systems can be incorporated into K-12 and undergraduate education instruction as well as urban community revitalization efforts. The next three talks will focus on the potential effects of urbanization on soil communities and their functioning from a local to global perspective and how research in urban soil ecology can advance our overall understanding of ecological systems in general. Finally, two case studies will be presented, one examining the connection between urban soil biodiversity and soil health and the other reports on two urban soil networks that assess large scale patterns of soil biodiversity but vary in their overall approach.