FT, dosentti Sinkkonen Aki ja työryhmä

168000 €

How to optimize functional and health-associated biodiversity in urban areas – lessons from Russia


Numerous studies have found associations between environmental biodiversity and health. The rule is that high biodiversity protects from atopy, allergies and other immune mediated diseases. Our recent findings have shown that high plant and microbial biodiversity is associated with diverse environmental and healthy gut microflora within Finland, despite the overall high prevalence of immune mediated diseases. We also found that polyaromatic hydrocarbons support the development of non-healthy microbiota. This is interesting since one of the most sudden shifts in the incidence of immune mediated diseases occurs at the border of Finland and Russia: immune-mediated diseases are several times rarer in Russia than Finland, despite marked pollution in several Russian cities. The reason is suspected to be the remarkably higher diversity of microbiota in Russian urban areas. As this has never been tested, we will compare the taxonomic and functional biodiversity of urban green environments in Russia and Finland. The study concentrates on four aspects, namely microbial functional and taxonomic biodiversity on soil surface, diversity of plant communities in urban green spaces, microbial biodiversity on leaf surface of a known indicator plant species and the effect of pollution on functional and taxonomic biodiversity in both countries. Special attention will be paid to find out associations between plant diversity and microbial diversity. The reason is that our observations indicate that plant diversity in urban green spaces in Russia is magnitudes higher than plant diversity in urban green spaces in Finland. We assume that high plant and the resulting high microbial biodiversity outweigh the negative effects of higher environmental pollution levels in Russian urban areas. If our hypothesis is true, Finns could adapt Russian horticultural practices, such as so called Controlled Neglect, and Russian could learn from Finnish practices of pollution control in urban areas.