Biogeographic patterns in below-ground diversity in New York City's Central Park are similar to those observed globally

Proc Biol Sci. 2014 Nov 22;281(1795):20141988. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2014.1988.


Soil biota play key roles in the functioning of terrestrial ecosystems, however, compared to our knowledge of above-ground plant and animal diversity, the biodiversity found in soils remains largely uncharacterized. Here, we present an assessment of soil biodiversity and biogeographic patterns across Central Park in New York City that spanned all three domains of life, demonstrating that even an urban, managed system harbours large amounts of undescribed soil biodiversity. Despite high variability across the Park, below-ground diversity patterns were predictable based on soil characteristics, with prokaryotic and eukaryotic communities exhibiting overlapping biogeographic patterns. Further, Central Park soils harboured nearly as many distinct soil microbial phylotypes and types of soil communities as we found in biomes across the globe (including arctic, tropical and desert soils). This integrated cross-domain investigation highlights that the amount and patterning of novel and uncharacterized diversity at a single urban location matches that observed across natural ecosystems spanning multiple biomes and continents.

Keywords: 16S rRNA gene; 18S rRNA gene; Archaea; Bacteria; Eukarya; soil biodiversity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Biodiversity*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • New York City
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / metabolism
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 18S / genetics
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 18S / metabolism
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Soil Microbiology*
  • Soil* / parasitology


  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 18S
  • Soil