Christopher X J. Jensen
Associate Professor, Pratt Institute

There’s Dirt Under Them Thar Sidewalks

Posted 30 Sep 2011 / 0

Sometimes I think that it is all too easy in New York City to forget one’s connection to natural systems: we have seemingly domesticated everything. Sewer systems replace rivers and streams, trees are methodically planted in evenly-spaced holes in the sidewalk, and every other surface is covered in asphalt and concrete.

And yet when this thin skin of human creation is pulled back (as seen of this picture taken on Ditmas Avenue in Kensington, Brooklyn), the real soil upon which we rest is revealed. I am really curious about the nature of this soil: is it still fertile, its nutrients locked in suspended animation for decades or centuries? Is there a vital microbial community still resident in this soil, or does long-term coverage sterilize the soil?

I don’t have the tools to answer these questions, but I would be interested to see someone who does look into the nature of long-covered urban soil.

Microbial Ecology, Soil Ecology, Urban Ecology

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