Urban Re-Greening: A Case Study in Multi-Trophic Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functioning in a Post-Industrial Landscape
The biodiversity of urban and post-industrial ecosystems is a highly relevant and growing new frontier in ecological research. Even so, the functionality of these ecosystems may not always be successfully predicted based on prior biodiversity and ecosystem functioning theory. Indeed, evidence suggests that the general biological impoverishment within the urban context envisioned thirty years ago was overstated. Many of the world’s urban centers support some degree of biodiversity that is indigenous, as well as a complex array of non-native species, resulting in highly functional, and often, novel communities. For over two decades, a multi-disciplinary team has examined the sub-lethal impact of soil metal contamination on the multi-trophic biodiversity and ecosystem functioning of a post-industrial brownfield in the New York City metropolitan area. We do this through examinations of photosynthesis, carbon allocation, and soil enzyme activity as well as multi-trophic metal translocation via the plant and rhizosphere. In this paper, we synthesize the findings of our research network and apply the results to a framework of functional diversity. Due to the unique constraints many post-industrial lands impose on communities, functional diversity may be more meaningful to ecosystem health than species richness.