VARANASI, 31.01.2023: Cities play a key role in the pursuit of development. They are the hubs of commercial, construction, manufacturing and in fact industrial activities. However, this also takes a toll on the environment and the ecosystem of urban areas. Increased human activity and urbanization is seen as the main reason for the deteriorating environment, particularly in cities, resulting in calls for more and concerted efforts to preserve it. A study by an international team of researchers including Dr. Jay Prakash Verma and Arpan Mukherjee from Banaras Hindu University, has suggested that maintaining the soil biodiversity of city parks/gardens or green areas is important to maintain the ecosystem of urban areas. Dr. Verma is working as Senior Assistant Professor at the Institute of Environment and Sustainable Development in Banaras Hindu University. Arpan Mukherjee is pursuing his Ph.D. under the supervision of Dr. Verma.
Dr. Verma said that city parks and gardens support a rich and diverse community of soil organisms including bacteria, fungi, protists and invertebrates, which often go unnoticed compared with eye-catching plants and animals. This new study suggests that the biodiversity of these soil organisms is essential for the maintenance and sustainability of city parks and gardens. “When we think about city parks, we often think of the recreational services they provide, which support our mental and physical health. However, city parks are semi-natural environments and the maintenance of healthy and vibrant parks and gardens require a huge effort from all stakeholders involved”, stated Dr. Verma.
In this study, Soil samples were collected from city parks and gardens of 56 municipalities across 16 countries. The countries include India, China, Australia, Argentina, US, Chile, Spain, Nigeria, Switzerland, Slovenia, Portugal, South Africa, Brazil, Mexico, Israel and Estonia. During the study 537 different microbial phylotypes (microbial diversity) in the soil were identified. Soil is called a living thing because of microbes and these microbial properties of soil help maintain the ecosystem. Microbes are the ones which define the properties and health of the soil.
Dr. Verma said, “Soils with larger biodiversity also have more biogeochemical activities to allow the flow of energy and matter through the system. This biodiversity plays a fundamental role in supporting “One Health policies and the ecosystem services” that are the core of the Sustainable Development Goals”. Soil taxonomic and genetic diversity is the fundamental for supporting multiple ecosystem functions. This study provides novel evidence that soil taxonomic and genetic diversity are positively correlated with multiple dimensions of ecosystem functions e.g., carbon sequestration and water regulation to plant pathogen control, and antibiotic resistance regulation in urban parks and gardens.
The findings of the study have been published in the internationally reputed scientific journal “Nature Ecology and Evolution”. Banaras Hindu University’s contribution to this research was funded by Department of Science and technology (DST), Science & Engineering Research Board (SERB), Govt. of India, and Institution of Eminence Initiative, Banaras Hindu University.