Do urban green spaces need trees or is grass enough? Are conifers ecologically more beneficial than broadleaf trees? These questions are among those that Heikki Setälä is seeking to answer with his latest research project "Ecosystem services in urban greenspaces across biomes: the influence of plant functional types and soil biota on soil-derived ecosystem processes."
The increasing urbanisation is adding pressure to land use, and the pressure usually focuses on urban green spaces. Urban green spaces threatened by land use and especially their soil are responsible for the same important ecological functions as natural areas. The research project focuses on how the vegetation in urban parks, especially conifers, broadleaf trees and grass, affect the ability of urban parks to produce ecosystem services in the different climates of Earth's vegetation zones.
The research includes three zones: boreal (Lahti/Helsinki), temperate (Baltimore, USA) and tropical (Singapore). Prior knowledge suggests that conifers in urban parks are underappreciated as service producers. Therefore the research also wants to find out whether ecosystem services produced by conifers are similar around the world. The key are the soil's microbes, fungi and bacteria, whose health correlates with the health of humans.
In addition to Lahti expertise from the University of Helsinki, the project also involves top researchers from universities of the above-mentioned cities. The four-year project was granted funding of roughly 0.5 million euros from the Academy of Finland.
Professor Heikki Setälä, University of Helsinki
Tel. +358 50 540 8094