Projections are that 68% of the global population will be living in cities by 2050. It is therefore not surprising that urban green spaces are critically important for promoting mental and physical well-being.
An international study, published in Science Advances, took soil samples from different types of urban green spaces and comparable neighboring natural ecosystems in 56 cities from 17 countries across six continents.
The study concluded that even roadside plantings contribute a range of important microbial communities that are critical for sustaining productive ecosystems services, such as filtering pollutants and sequestering carbon dioxide.
Parks and gardens constitute most of the open spaces available for recreational activities in cities and play important roles in curbing pollution, reducing noise, and lowering air temperatures.
In addition, human exposure to soil microbes has been shown to be beneficial to human health by promoting effective immunoregulation functions and reducing allergies. The study found that city parks and even roadside plantings support a great variety of different microbes that are different from natural ecosystems.
We think of roadsides as being barren but the vegetation along footpaths and roadsides are important microbial habitats. Some European cities, such as Bern in Switzerland, have instituted policies to protect the natural vegetation along footpaths and roadsides.
The new study is a part of a series of research efforts looking at the important of green spaces for ecosystem health. As the world becomes increasingly urbanized, every bit of greenery in cities and highways is important and is needed for sustaining a healthy environment.
Photo, posted June 3, 2013, courtesy of Manuel MV via Flickr.