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Bright Lights, Big City: the Microbiome of the Concrete Jungle

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It's an often-told story; a young person with a bright future moves to the big city, and sinks or swims in spectacular fashion. The focus is on the health of their career and social life -- but what about their microbiome?

The City-biome

Each city (and even each neighborhood) has a unique microbiome. The bacteria in your city are influenced by a few different factors.

Climate: Temperature, rainfall, humidity, sunshine, and all things climate related have a strong effect on the types of microbes that live in an area. Just like the plants in Antarctica are different from those in Hawaii, so too will the smaller organisms differ.

Vegetation: The small organisms in the world often live in conjunction with the larger organisms in the world. Think about the lowly peanut plant -- it has tiny organisms living in its roots which help it consume nitrogen to make your peanut butter!

Population: Man and microbe have a complex relationship. While the microbes in your city affect your microbiome, the human population in your city also has an impact on the microbial population. In places where people live close together and often come into contact with each other, a community of organisms will develop differently than in a city where individuals are more spread out. Think NYC vs LA.

Industry: Different industries generate different types of pollution, which affects the microbes in the surrounding areas.

City Infrastructure: The sewer systems, public transportation systems, and even the roadways affect how a city's microbiome will grow. While sewage systems are an obvious conduit for microbial diversity (not always the good kind), public transport gets a lot of bacteria meeting and greeting different hosts. The roadways can affect microorganisms by changing the landscape -- removing green spaces and the microscopic tenants who once lived there.

Microbes on the Map

The moral here is everyone should get an extra two weeks vacation to boost their microbiomes in new cities.

Just kidding! Though we wouldn't say no ;)

Your local environment isn't just about the view, or the length of your commute. Your garden - or concrete sidewalk - or lakeside dock - can have an impact on your microbiome, too. Get outside, explore, and let your microbiome breathe a little.

Read More: 5 Life Lessons from Mother Nature

Read More: I'm Allergic to a Weak Microbiomee

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