If you thought the collection of fungi housed in your own fridge was impressive, wait ’til you hear what was found on NYC’s green roofs. Researchers from Barnard College, Columbia University, Fordham and the University of Colorado recently conducted tests on planted roofs in all five boroughs and discovered that they harbor thriving colonies of various types of fungi. While creepy crawlies like these tend to have a bad rep, these newly discovered “fungal communities” could actually be beneficial in their ability to remove pollutants from the air and assist with stormwater runoff.
The researchers sampled the soil composition of ten green roofs throughout the five boroughs and evaluated them in comparison to the fungal communities of those found in five city parks including Central Park and the High Line. Here is what they write of their findings in PLOS ONE:
“[W]e found that green roofs supported a diverse fungal community, with numerous taxa belonging to fungal groups capable of surviving in disturbed and polluted habitats. Across roofs, there was significant biogeographical clustering of fungal communities, indicating that community assembly of roof microbes across the greater New York City area is locally variable. Green roof fungal communities were compositionally distinct from city parks and only 54% of the green roof taxa were also found in the park soils.”
Though New York parks unveiled a greater biomass of microbes in the study, the higher levels of heavy metals and lower bases of calcium, potassium and magnesium make it unsafe for consuming in larger quantities. Essentially, the study suggests that fungi living on green roofs might provide underestimated ecological benefits not found in city parks.