Exploring the microbiota of green infrastructure

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Jacob G. Mill, Andrew Bissett, Martin Breed, Justin D. Brookes, Nicholas J.C. Gellie, Craig Liddicoat, Andrew J. Lowe, Emma Marczylo, Caitlin A. Selway, Chris Skelly, Harrison R. Sydnor, Torsten Thomas, Philip Weinstein

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Urban public health is suffering from epidemics of non-communicable diseases related to depauperate human microbiota. The Microbiome Rewilding Hypothesis states that revegetation to create rewilded urban green spaces should create exposure to nature-like microbial communities, and that these will benefit public health through co-evolutionary pathways of microbiallymediated immune training and regulation. Evidence for the mechanistic pathways of microbiota mediating human health is expanding rapidly. Meanwhile, insight into creating healthy exposures to environmental microbiota is also growing, such as designs of nature-based childcare facilities and “nature-play” programs. Despite this, there is a lack of evidence for using largescale urban habitat restoration to create beneficial, permanent microbial communities. Throughout my PhD, we investigated the effect of revegetation on microbial communities in urban green spaces, as well as the influence of varying school environments on children’s microbiomes. These investigations were done by analyzing soil, leaf-surface, and human microbiota with high-throughput marker-gene sequencing, e.g., bacterial 16S rRNA gene regions. Here, I will present our three main findings: [1] that revegetated green space soil microbiota can become more similar to remnant areas than to lawns; [2] that rare bacterial genera are important for defining soil communities in urban green spaces of three disparate cities; and [3] exposure to various indoor and outdoor environments within school grounds can influence the skin microbiota of children. Therefore, we conclude that urban revegetation can create soil microbial communities that are nature-like and influential to human microbiota. However, embedded experiments are needed to effectively merge microbiome rewilding with design principles.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program