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Exploring the Hidden Biodiversity of Central Park 

Thanks to Dr. Kelly Ramirez, former Executive Director of the GSBI, the importance of life under our feet is all over the news!  See links below for the recently publshed paper and media coverage. 

The GSBI, in collaboration with the Wall Lab of Colorado State University, the Fierer Lab of the University of Colorado, Boulder, the Bradford Lab of Yale and the American Museum of Natural History explored the soil biodiversity of Central Park, New York, NY. The group collected over 600 soil samples to map the soil biodiversity of the park.

 
JULY 23-25, 2012
Why map soil biodiversity in Central Park?
Central Park
Soil is one of the most species-rich environments on Earth, containing millions of microorganisms (bacteria, fungi & archaea) and soil fauna (protozoa & invertebrates). The microorganisms and animals that live in soil have a direct influence on soil fertility by mobilizing nutrients, increasing soil porosity, improving soil texture, and decreasing erosion.  However, much of soil biodiversity remains unexplored, especially in urban areas where erosion can have significant impacts on this limited resource. While urban soils have a diversity of land-uses (golf courses, parks, lawns, etc.), above and belowground diversity is degraded through contamination and compaction. Human activities can have significant impact on urban soils (i.e. through close contact with fertilizers, pesticides, emissions, traffic, and recreational use) though we do not know how urban pressures affect the distribution of soil organisms. In large urban areas parks are important for recreational, environmental and aesthetic benefits to people, but the community of users are generally unaware of the vast hidden diversity beneath their feet.
 
This project will map the diversity and distributions of microorganisms and fauna in soils collected from over 600 locations in Central Park thereby generating the most comprehensive broad-scale survey of soil biodiversity in an urban area conducted to date. We selected Central Park as the first urban area to be examined because of its size, and potential discovery of new species of soil biodiversity. Additionally, this survey of soil biodiversity will compliment the already established New York City soil survey-- allowing us to combine knowledge of soil factors (abiotic) and the biodiversity (biotic) to understand the inherent functioning within.
 
Central ParkFurthermore, the results will be compared to soil biodiversity in other terrestrial ecosystems, such as an ongoing Africa project of the Wall and Fierer labs and used for informing the GSBI Global Soil Biodiversity Assessment (GSBA). All results will be made freely available to researchers and the general public as soon as it is generated.
 
 
Acknowledgements:
The GSBI would like to specifically thank Elizabeth Johnson, Manager, Metropolitan Biodiversity Program, Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, American Museum of Natural History, Susan Perkins, Genomics Curator, American Museum of Natural History, and Tina Nelson, Soil, Water & Ecology Laboratory Coordinator, Central Park Conservancy for their help in organizing this project.