QLE.20.024 – Improving urban green infrastructure by incorporating hidden biodiversity networks

Route: Quality of the living environment

Cluster question: 003 Why is biodiversity important and how do we protect it?

Soil organisms and small flora elements (mosses, lichens and small flowering plants) on soil, tree trunks and construction surfaces form ‘hidden’ layers of biodiversity. Their interactions and ecosystem services in an urban context are little understood. Soil biodiversity is considered to be of paramount importance to create a healthy environment for the urban vegetation, while aboveground mosses and lichens create microhabitats and contribute to water regulation and counteracting urban heat islands. The core question of this project is: How can the inclusion of hidden biodiversity layers in urban planning and design, and in management of green infrastructure improve the quality of the living environment, and how can we raise ecological awareness of citizens for hidden biodiversity? We will study ecological interactions and connectivity of urban green spaces in relation to urban planning and design, focusing on soil fungi and small flora elements. Based on an integrative biodiversity assessment including soil and air eDNA metabarcoding and field mapping, we will compare soil biodiversity between different urban areas and infer dispersal pathways of airborne seeds and spores. The latter may serve as vectors connecting and exchanging biodiversity in a fragmented urban landscape, but also transport allergenic particles relevant to human health. Furthermore, we will infer the impact of urban planning, design concepts such as nature-inclusive buildings, and management practices on the biodiversity of soil organisms and small flora elements. We invite citizens to participate in the research, involving public spaces as well as private gardens. We will infer how urban citizens consider the aesthetic and functional value of greener buildings and pavements, spontaneous natural growth, and vertical biodiversity on trees, and investigate what factors may lead citizens to act more environmentally friendly. Finally, we will develop recommendations for urban planners, policy makers and organisations of garden owners based on the project results.


citizen perception, design concepts, ecological networks, hidden biodiversity, soil health, urban green, urban planning


Organisation Naturalis Biodiversity Center
Name Dr. M. (Michael) Stech
E-mail michael.stech@naturalis.nl
Website https://www.naturalis.nl/en/michael-stech