Anthropized and urban environments

Contact: Francesca Bretzel (Unit of Pisa)
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Urbanization has led to the modification of physical, chemical and biological properties compared to those of natural soils: intensive human activity, associated with buildings, transport, the use of materials for parks and gardens, have caused the disturbance and heterogeneity of urban and suburban soils, often producing young soils with unpredictable layerings. Furthermore, a wide variety of contaminants, a low content of nutrients, an altered pH, impede the necessary and important functions of soil, including the healthy growth of plants.


Research

The main topics of research include:

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Urban Soil Quality: the focus is on the most important physical and chemical characteristics of soils in urban environments, which contribute to their low quality.

Heavy metals as contaminants of urban soils: Heavy metals are pollutants of urban areas. It is important to know the distribution of heavy metals and their behaviour in urban soils. The bioavailability of metals will be studied, as an important measure of the potential risk. The research aims to highlight the importance of investigating the presence of heavy metals in cities and identifying appropriate references.

Artificial soils: The study and use of artificial or reconstituted soils in order to optimize the edaphic habitat for plantings in urban areas. This includes studying the physical and chemical characteristics of materials.

Naturalistic herbaceous plantings: Soils associated with urban re-development sites generally consist of an infertile mix (subsoil, building material), which is gradually colonised by weedy native and exotic grasses and forbs, which are suited to these soil conditions. The aim of the research is to examine whether a visually more attractive and biodiverse meadow-like vegetation of herbaceous species could be established and to assess the dynamics of soil-vegetation and disturbance-vegetation.