Biodiversity and direct ecosystem service regulation in the community gardens of Los Angeles, CA

  • Clarke L
  • Jenerette G
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Context Urban community gardens are globally prevalent urban agricultural areas and have the potential to fulfill human needs in impoverished neighborhoods, such as food security and access to open space. Despite these benefits, little research has been conducted evaluating environmental and socioeconomic factors influencing community garden plant biodiversity and ecosystem services (ES). Objective Our study investigated the drivers of managed plant richness, abundance, and ES production in community gardens across Los Angeles County, CA from 2010 to 2012 at regional, garden, and plot scales. Methods Fourteen community gardens were visited in the summers of 2010–2012 for comprehensive species surveys across regional, garden, and plot scales. We compared biodiversity to household income, plot size, and gardener ethnicity. Results In total, 707 managed plant species were recorded in summer surveys over a 3-year period. Ornamental plant richness increased with neighborhood income, while edible and medicinal richness increased with size of garden plots. Gardener ethnicity also influenced the composition of managed species, especially edible species. Conclusions We explain these patterns through a hierarchy of needs framework; gardeners preferentially plant species progressively less connected to human need. Ornamental plant increases in highincome regions may be explained by their requirement for financial investment and maintenance time. Cultural and provisioning ES are important for immigrant populations, resulting in ethnically distinct crop assemblages. Finally, distinct species–area relationships imply high demand for food abundance and biodiversity. Our quantitative results indicate that community gardens contribute to a biologically diverse urban ecosystem and provide valued ecosystem services in food insecure regions.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Beta diversity
  • Food security
  • Hierarchy of need
  • Socioeconomics
  • Species–area relationship
  • Urban agriculture

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  • Lorraine Weller Clarke

  • G. Darrel Jenerette

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