Associations detected between measures of neighborhood environmental conditions and human microbiome diversity

Amber L. Pearson, Jennifer Pechal, Zihan Lin, M. Eric Benbow, Carl Schmidt, Suzanne Mavoa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


While emerging research suggests urban green space revegetation increases soil microbiota diversity and native plant species affect skin microbiome diversity, there is still a paucity of knowledge on relationships between neighborhood environmental conditions and the human microbiome. This study leveraged data on human microbiome samples (nose, mouth, rectum) taken at autopsy at the Wayne County Medical Examiner's Office (2014–2015). We evaluated relationships between the microbiome and five measures of environmental conditions (NDVI standard deviation, NDVI mean, percent trees, percent grassland and soil type) near the home of 126 decedents. For the rectum microbiome, NDVI sd had negative, significant associations with diversity (ASVs β = −0.20, p = 0.045; Faith PD β = −0.22, p = 0.026). In contrast, while insignificant, there were consistent, positive associations between diversity and NDVI sd for the mouth microbiome (ASVs β = 0.09, p = 0.337, Faith PD β = 0.14, p = 0.149, Shannon diversity β = 0.14, p = 0.159, Heip's evenness β = 0.11, p = 0.259) and a significant association for the nose microbiome (eigenvalues 3 β = 0.18, p = 0.057). We found consistent, significant, negative associations between percent grassland and diversity of the nose microbiome (ASVs β = −0.25, p = 0.008, Faith PD β = −0.25, p = 0.009, Shannon diversity β = −0.17, p = 0.062). For the mouth microbiome, we found a small effect of percent trees on diversity (eigenvalues 1 β = −0.08, p = 0.053). Clay loam soil was negatively (eigenvalues 2 β = −0.47, p = 0.053) and positively associated (eigenvalues 3 β = 0.65, p = 0.008) with rectum microbiome diversity, compared to loam soil. There was no potential indicator taxon among NDVI quartiles. These findings may be relevant for urban planning and management of urban outdoor spaces in ways that may support healthy human microbiomes. Still, future research is needed to link variation in NDVI, vegetation, plant and/or soil microbe diversity and to confirm or negate our findings that environmental conditions may have contrasting influence on the microbiome of the rectum versus the nose and mouth and that grasslands affect the nose microbiome.

Original languageEnglish
Article number141029
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 25 Nov 2020
Externally publishedYes


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