On January 19, 2022, Elizabeth M. Cook, assistant professor of environmental science, published new research in Ecological Applications. In this journal article, titled “Nitrogen cycling and urban afforestation success in New York City,” Cook and her co-authors examine the microbially mediated processes of carbon and nitrogen in 10 different experimental afforested sites across New York City parklands. (Afforestation refers to the establishing a forest or stand of trees on land without previous tree cover.)
Using long-term research plots that were established between 2009 and 2011 with low and high diversity (two versus six tree species) treatments, the researchers analyzed soil conditions, including potential net nitrogen mineralization and nitrification and total soil nitrogen. Next, they observed the different trajectories between sites with closed canopy and leaf litter layers derived from planted trees. Their findings suggest that afforestation success is largely driven by interactions between initial site conditions with plant community establishment and development that enables nitrogen accumulation and cycling.