Home sweet home: Understanding New York City soil fungal communities in green roofs and city parks

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Roof garden

Green roofs are growing more common in urban communities around the world. Besides the cost savings associated with these urban green spaces; they also provide ecosystem benefits such as decreased water run-off and habitats for birds and insects.  While green roofs are well studied for their benefits to urban dwellers of the human species, little is known about the impact of their microscopic inhabitants.

In order to better understand these green roof ecosystems, researchers of a recently published paper dug in and evaluated whether or not green roofs in New York City served as a habitat for fungal communities and compared these fungal communities to the microbial composition of nearby city parks.

Their research uncovered that fungi form a diverse community, with many varieties that belong to groups capable of surviving tough conditions like disturbed and polluted habitats. According to the paper:

 Across roofs, there was significant biogeographical clustering of fungal communities, indicating that community assembly of roof microbes across the greater New York City area is locally variable… While fungal communities were compositionally distinct across green roofs, they did not differentiate by plant community.

When the roof and park soil samples were compared, the researchers found that 54% of the fungal strains where shared between park soil and green roofs.

To read more about this research and about how the fungi living on green roofs could be an undervalued piece of the green roof ecosystem click here.

Citation: McGuire KL, Payne SG, Palmer MI, Gillikin CM, Keefe D, et al. (2013) Digging the New York City Skyline: Soil Fungal Communities in Green Roofs and City Parks. PLoS ONE 8(3): e58020. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0058020

Image:  Image comes from Figure 2 of the manuscript and is an image of a representative green roof from the study.

 

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