Alessandro Ossola, Fiona J. Christie, & Stephen J. Livesley, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia

Amy C. Hahs, Australian Research Centre for Urban Ecology, Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia

Michael A. Nash, South Australian Research and Development Institute, Adelaide, Australia

Presentation Title: The simplification of urban ecosystem structure affects soil processes and soil biodiversity




This study aimed to understand the effect of the simplification of urban ecosystem structure on soil processes, namely litter decomposition and comminution, and the soil organisms involved in these processes. The study addressed the following research questions: 1) Is the simplification of the structure of urban ecosystems affecting soil processes? 2) How does the simplification of the structure affect the microclimate of the surface decomposition environment?; and, 3) Does the variation in soil processes correlate with a variation in soil biodiversity? This research provides the first evidence that the simplification of urban ecosystem structure exerts a control on microclimate, habitat and resources for soil organisms, and consequently the dependent soil processes.


Key Lessons Learned

  • The evaluation of ecosystem services and benefits provided by urban ecosystems must be based on the quantification of the underlying ecological processes and functions.
  • The simplification of urban ecosystems affects key soil processes and the relative ecosystem services (e.g., carbon sequestration, soil health, etc.)
  • Micro-climate and soil organisms are also affected by urban ecosystem simplification.


Policy/Practice Implications of Research

  • Humans alter the structure of the urban ecosystems in which they live and interact based on management practices, aesthetics and socio-economic values.
  • Increasing the structural complexity of urban ecosystems may improve soil processes and the relative benefits, and possibly the overall resilience of these systems to future environmental changes.
  • Urban managers should liaise with citizens, ecologists, designers and architects to plan, design and maintain high-complexity urban ecosystems with enhanced ecosystem services.


Knowledge Gaps and Needs

  • There is a need to understand whether urban ecosystem simplification exerts a similar control on soil processes and biodiversity in different climates, soil types and socio-economic contexts.
  • There is a need for inclusion of a temporal dimension in the evaluation of ecosystem legacies.
  • The interactions between urban ecosystem complexity and other drivers of change (e.g., climate change) need further evaluation.


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