Community Gardens Are Good for the Neighborhood

By:Rebecca Owen|
Community Garden
The Venice Community Garden was built in a 6,000 square foot (557.4 square meter) vacant lot in the Silver Triangle and now allows locals to plant plots for $25 a month.Education Images /Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Around the world, city residents build gardens on balconies, rooftops and small strips of land. AMarch 2023 study发表在《生态学通讯》杂志上confirms that beyond offering food and an outlet for cultivating outdoor space,urban gardensprovide benefits for the humans, insects, and animals who inhabit these leafy respites from city life.

Much of theworld's populationlives in cities — places not typically considered prime habitats to research the intersection of people, plants andpollinators. Agriculture may conjure images of endless fields of singular crops. The small garden in a busy neighborhood, however, may bring to mind an entirely different story.


"There are a lot of studies that claim that food production is at odds with saving biodiversity and other ecosystem services," which are the benefits that nature provides,Stacy Philpott,加州大学的生态学家桑特a Cruz, and one of the authors of the study, said via email. "But our study did not uphold these previous findings," she added.

Measuring a Garden's Impact

Community Garden
Kaz Werner (right) and her daughter Rose Werner (left), 2, check on vegetables and fruit growing in their planter at The Community Garden during a visit April 15, 2021 in Santa Clara, California.San Francisco Chronicle/Hearst Newspapers via Getty Images

Over five years, Philpott and her colleagues collected data from 28 community gardens along California's central coast, aiming to show how cultivating verdant space — even in a city — can create a thriving ecosystem. Besides counting beneficial insects, such as pollinators and predators of garden pests, the researchers cataloged features such as the numbers of trees and flowers, types of ground cover and how much natural habitat surrounded each plot.

这些data helped Philpott and her colleagues determine whether natural trade-offs occurred among ecosystem services such as food production, pollination, pest control, water conservation, carbon sequestration, climate regulation and human well-being.


The researchers asked questions like the following: Do certain plants have a positive or negative effect on the number of pollinators present? If food production is high, is biodiversity low? They also looked at the natural habitat surrounding the gardens and evaluated whether it influenced either trade-offs or synergies among ecosystem services. "We asked whether certain garden features tended to promote some ecosystem services but not others," Philpott said.

Garden's Give More Than They Take

Community Garden
Monarch butterflies found a new home at the Rinconada Community Garden in Palo Alto, California. Large populations of the butterflies were seen breeding for the first time in the urban San Francisco Bay peninsula, many frequenting the Community Garden.Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The researchers found more synergies and fewer trade-offs; ecosystem services tended to connect to one another in a positive manner.

"This means that carbon sequestration, water conservation, or biodiversity conservation in a garden doesn't need to come at the expense of food production," Philpott said.


A community garden can provide food and support its gardeners while also offering a habitat for a diverse range of life.

Certain garden management techniques, such as mulching a bed, had both positive and negative effects on the ecosystem services measured — adding mulch to a bed increased carbon sequestration but decreased pollinator activity.

"Typically, we found that plant diversity in a garden was less important for promoting beneficial insect biodiversity when there was more natural habitat in the landscape," Philpott said.

"It's good to see a study focusing on the urban environment where most people live,"Signe Danler,a horticulturist at Oregon State University who was not involved in the study, said. "They evaluated so many different factors. Any ecosystem is very complicated, and an urban ecosystem may be even more so," she added.

The study shows that urban gardeners can utilize a small patch of land to contribute to their neighborhood's biodiversity as well as their own well-being. Conserving natural habitat, including weeds, might attract more good neighbors, such as pollinators and predators of garden pests. "Plant more plants and let them grow naturally. Allow some untidiness," Danler said. "Physical health, mental health: all of these are made better by having healthy nature and ecosystems around you."

This article is republished fromEosunder a Creative Commons license. You can find theoriginal articlehere.