Ecosystem (dis)benefits arising from formal and informal land-use in Manchester (UK); a case study of urban soil characteristics associated with local green space management: Ecosystem (dis)benefits of informal urban land-use

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Urban soils are subject to anthropogenic influences and, reciprocally, provide benefits and dis-benefits to human wellbeing; for example carbon storage, nutrient cycling and the regulation trace element and contaminant mobility. Collective stewardship of urban green commons provides contemporary examples of the diversity of uses and management of green space in cities and represents a growing movement in user participation in, and awareness of, the importance of urban ecological health. Exploring the range of social-ecological benefits exemplified in the urban environment has generally focused on above-ground processes, with few studies examining the potential for (dis)benefits arising from edaphic characteristics of collectively-managed spaces. An investigation into the influence of formal and informal green space management on carbon fluxes and heavy metal concentrations in urban soils was carried out in Manchester (UK) finding that carbon storage in soils of collectively managed urban green commons (7.15 ±1.42 kg C m⁻²) was significantly greater than at formally managed sites (for example city parks: 5.08 ±0.69 kg C m⁻²), though the latter exhibited reduced losses through CO2 emission. Variation in heavy metal concentrations and mobility were likewise observed, exemplified by the acidification of surface soils by leaf litter at orchard sites, and the resultant increase in the mobility of lead (Pb) and zinc (Zn). The results of this study indicate the importance of small-scale contemporary urban green space management on selected ecosystem services provided by the limited soil resource of cities. Thus, a greater consideration of the effects of horticultural and amenity activities with regards to soil quality/functionality is required to ensure available urban green commons retain or increase their ecological quality over time.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 10 Apr 2020