Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

Ecosystem services and tradeoffs in the home food gardens of African American, Chinese-origin and Mexican-origin households in Chicago, IL

  • John R. Taylor (a1), Sarah Taylor Lovell (a2), Sam E. Wortman (a2) and Michelle Chan (a3)

With increasing urbanization and environmental degradation, urban landscapes are increasingly expected to provide a wide range of ecosystem services typically associated with rural areas, including biodiversity conservation and food production. Because residential landscapes constitute the largest single urban land use, domestic gardens have emerged as a topic of research interest and planning concern. The ecosystem services (or disservices) these landscapes provide, however, have not been rigorously measured, nor have tradeoffs between the services they provide been assessed. In this study, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 59 African American, Chinese-origin or Mexican-origin households with on-lot or vacant lot food gardens in Chicago. Crop plants and cultivated ornamental plants on the lot were inventoried and mapped at the species level. A total of 123 edible plant taxa from 25 families and 288 ornamental plant species from 85 families were identified, for a combined total of 387 species from 90 families. Cumulatively, the gardens of African American households were relatively rich in ornamental plant species and families, while those of Chinese-origin households had a depauperate flora. Crop plant richness was more even across sample types. Shade trees and a developed shrub layer were absent from most gardens, possibly representing a tradeoff in ecosystem services in favor of food production. The richness of the aggregate 2.1 ha of residential property inventoried in this study was comparable with or exceeded that of a 34 ha prairie remnant west of Chicago. However, only 35 (9.6%) of the inventoried species were native to the Chicago area.

Corresponding author
* Corresponding author:
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

M. Aguilar-Stoen , S.R. Moe , and S.L. Camargo-Ricalde 2009. Home gardens sustain crop diversity and improve farm resilience in Candelaria Loxicha, Oaxaca, Mexico. Human Ecology: An Interdisciplinary Journal 37:23p.

C.A. Airriess and D.L. Clawson 1994. Vietnamese market gardens in New Orleans. Geographical Review 84:16p.

S.N. Aitken and M.C. Whitlock 2013. Assisted gene flow to facilitate local adaptation to climate change. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics 44:367388.

H. Akbari , M. Pomerantz , and H. Taha 2001. Cool surfaces and shade trees to reduce energy use and improve air quality in urban areas. Solar Energy 70:295310.

M.L. Avolio , D.E. Pataki , S. Pincetl , T.W. Gillespie , G.D. Jenerette , and H.R. Mccarthy 2015. Understanding preferences for tree attributes: The relative effects of socio-economic and local environmental factors. Urban Ecosystems 18:7386.

L. Brussaard , P.C. De Ruiter , and G.G. Brown 2007. Soil biodiversity for agricultural sustainability. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 121:233244.

C. Buchmann 2009. Cuban home gardens and their role in social-ecological resilience. Human Ecology: An Interdisciplinary Journal 37:17 p.

K.T. Burghardt , D.W. Tallamy , and W. Gregory Shriver 2009. Impact of native plants on bird and butterfly biodiversity in suburban landscapes. Conservation Biology 23:219224.

R.W.F. Cameron , T. Blanuša , J.E. Taylor , A. Salisbury , A.J. Halstead , B. Henricot , and K. Thompson 2012. The domestic garden–its contribution to urban green infrastructure. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening 11:129137.

S. Cilliers , J. Cilliers , R. Lubbe , and S. Siebert 2013. Ecosystem services of urban green spaces in African countries—perspectives and challenges. Urban Ecosystems 16:681702.

L.W. Clarke and G.D. Jenerette 2015. Biodiversity and direct ecosystem service regulation in the community gardens of Los Angeles, CA. Landscape Ecology 30:357363.

L.W. Clarke , L. Li , G.D. Jenerette , and Z. Yu 2014. Drivers of plant biodiversity and ecosystem service production in home gardens across the Beijing Municipality of China. Urban Ecosystems 17:741760.

E.M. Cook , S.J. Hall , and K.L. Larson 2012. Residential landscapes as social-ecological systems: A synthesis of multi-scalar interactions between people and their home environment. Urban Ecosystems 15:1952.

J.L. Corlett , E.A. Dean , and L.E. Grivetti 2003. Hmong gardens: Botanical diversity in an urban setting. Economic Botany 57:365379.

G.D. Daniels and J.B. Kirkpatrick 2006. Comparing the characteristics of front and back domestic gardens in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia. Landscape and Urban Planning 78:344352.

V. Dewaelheyns , E. Rogge , and H. Gulinck 2014. Putting domestic gardens on the agenda using empirical spatial data: The case of flanders. Applied Geography 50:132143.

S.H. Faeth , C. Bang , and S. Saari 2011. Urban biodiversity: patterns and mechanisms. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1223:6981.

G. Galluzzi , P. Eyzaguirre , and V. Negri 2010. Home gardens: Neglected hotspots of agro-biodiversity and cultural diversity. Biodiversity and Conservation 19:36353654.

T. Gladis and K. Pistrick 2011. Chaerophyllum byzantinum Boiss. and Trachystemon orientalis (L.) G. Don—recently introduced from Turkish wild flora as new crop species among other interesting findings from immigrant gardens in western Germany. Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution 58:165174.

M.A. Goddard , A.J. Dougill , and T.G. Benton 2010. Scaling up from gardens: Biodiversity conservation in urban environments. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 25:9098.

S.S. Grewal , Z. Cheng , S. Masih , M. Wolboldt , N. Huda , A. Knight , and P.S. Grewal 2011. An assessment of soil nematode food webs and nutrient pools in community gardens and vacant lots in two post-industrial American cities. Urban Ecosystems 14:181194.

J. Grove , A. Troy , J. O'NEIL-Dunne , W. Burch Jr, M. Cadenasso , and S. Pickett 2006. Characterization of households and its implications for the vegetation of urban ecosystems. Ecosystems 9:578597.

N. Heynen , H.A. Perkins , and P. Roy 2006. The political ecology of uneven urban green space–The impact of political economy on race and ethnicity in producing environmental inequality in Milwaukee. Urban Affairs Review 42:325.

D. Hope , C. Gries , W. Zhu , W.F. Fagan , C.L. Redman , N.B. Grimm , A.L. Nelson , C. Martin , and A. Kinzig 2003. Socioeconomics drive urban plant diversity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 100:87888792.

M.C.R. Hunter and D.G. Brown 2012. Spatial contagion: Gardening along the street in residential neighborhoods. Landscape and Urban Planning 105:407416.

L.R. Iverson and E.A. Cook 2000. Urban forest cover of the Chicago region and its relation to household density and income. Urban Ecosystems 4:105124.

M. Jaganmohan , L.S. Vailshery , D. Gopal , and H. Nagendra 2012. Plant diversity and distribution in urban domestic gardens and apartments in Bangalore, India. Urban Ecosystems 15:911925.

A.P. Kinzig , P. Warren , C. Martin , D. Hope , and M. Katti 2005. The effects of human socioeconomic status and cultural characteristics on urban patterns of biodiversity. Ecology and Society 10:23.

J.B. Kirkpatrick , A. Davison , and G.D. Daniels 2013. Sinners, scapegoats or fashion victims? Understanding the deaths of trees in the green city. Geoforum 48:165176.

S. Knapp , L. Dinsmore , C. Fissore , S.E. Hobbie , I. Jakobsdottir , J. Kattge , J.Y. King , S. Klotz , J.P. Mcfadden , and J. Cavender-Bares 2012. Phylogenetic and functional characteristics of household yard floras and their changes along an urbanization gradient. Ecology 93:S83S98.

R. Kortright and S. Wakefield 2011. Edible backyards: A qualitative study of household food growing and its contributions to food security. Agriculture and Human Values 28:3953.

L. Larsen and S.L. Harlan 2006. Desert dreamscapes: Residential landscape preference and behavior. Landscape and Urban Planning 78:85100.

A. Loram , K. Thompson , P.H. Warren , and K.J. Gaston 2008. Urban domestic gardens (XII): The richness and composition of the flora in five UK cities. Journal of Vegetation Science 19:321330.

S.T. Lovell 2010. Multifunctional urban agriculture for sustainable land use planning in the United States. Sustainability 2:24992522.

S.T. Lovell and J.R. Taylor 2013. Supplying urban ecosystem services through multifunctional green infrastructure in the United States. Landscape Ecology 28:14471463.

A. Marco , T. Dutoit , M. Deschamps-Cottin , J.-F. Mauffrey , M. Vennetier , and V. Bertaudière-Montes 2008. Gardens in urbanizing rural areas reveal an unexpected floral diversity related to housing density. Comptes Rendus Biologies 331:452465.

R.H. Matsuoka and R. Kaplan 2008. People needs in the urban landscape: Analysis of landscape and urban planning contributions. Landscape and Urban Planning 84:719.

S. Mazumdar 2012. Immigrant home gardens: Places of religion, culture, ecology, and family. Landscape and Urban Planning 105:258265.

M.L. McKinney 2006. Urbanization as a major cause of biotic homogenization. Biological Conservation 127:247260.

V. Méndez , R. Lok , and E. Somarriba 2001. Interdisciplinary analysis of homegardens in Nicaragua: Micro-zonation, plant use and socioeconomic importance. Agroforestry Systems 51:8596.

L.-A. Minkoff-Zern 2012. Pushing the boundaries of indigeneity and agricultural knowledge: Oaxacan immigrant gardening in California. Agriculture and Human Values 29:381392.

P.K.R. Nair 2006. Whither homegardens? In B.M. Kumar and P.K.R. Nair (eds). Tropical Homegardens: A Time-Tested Example of Sustainable Agroforestry. Springer, Dordrecht.

C.I. Nicholls and M.A. Altieri 2013. Plant biodiversity enhances bees and other insect pollinators in agroecosystems. A review. Agronomy for Sustainable Development 33:257274.

D.J. Nowak and J.F. Dwyer 2007. Understanding the benefits and costs of urban forest ecosystems. In J.E. Kuser (ed.). Urban and Community Forestry in the Northeast. 2nd ed. Springer, New York, NY. p. 2546.

M.Q. Patton 2014. Qualitative Research & Evaluation Methods, Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, CA.

S. Pickett , M. Cadenasso , J.M. Grove , C.G. Boone , P.M. Groffman , E. Irwin , S.S. Kaushal , V. Marshall , B.P. Mcgrath , and C.H. Nilon 2011. Urban ecological systems: Scientific foundations and a decade of progress. Journal of Environmental Management 92:331362.

V. Reyes-García , S. Vila , L. Aceituno-Mata , L. Calvet-Mir , T. Garnatje , A. Jesch , J.J. Lastra , M. Parada , M. Rigat , J. Vallès , and M. Pardo-De-santayana 2010. Gendered homegardens: A study in three mountain areas of the Iberian Peninsula. Economic Botany 64:235247.

T. Sattler , P. Duelli , M.K. Obrist , R. Arlettaz , and M. Moretti 2010. Response of arthropod species richness and functional groups to urban habitat structure and management. Landscape Ecology 25:941954.

B.R. Scales and S.J. Marsden 2008. Biodiversity in small-scale tropical agroforests: A review of species richness and abundance shifts and the factors influencing them. Environmental Conservation 35:160172.

W.J. Sluis 2002. Patterns of species richness and composition in re-created grassland. Restoration Ecology 10:677684.

R.M. Smith , K. Thompson , J.G. Hodgson , P.H. Warren , and K.J. Gaston 2006. Urban domestic gardens (IX): Composition and richness of the vascular plant flora, and implications for native biodiversity. Biological Conservation 129:312322.

F. Swink and G. Wilhelm 1994. Plants of the Chicago Region. Indiana Academy of Sciences, Indianapolis, IN.

J.R. Taylor and S.T. Lovell 2012. Mapping public and private spaces of urban agriculture in Chicago through the analysis of high-resolution aerial images in Google Earth. Landscape and Urban Planning 108:5770.

J.R. Taylor and S.T. Lovell 2014. Urban home food gardens in the Global North: Research traditions and future directions. Agriculture and Human Values 31:285305.

Y.M. Van Heezik , C. Freeman , S. Porter , and K.J. Dickinson 2014. Native and exotic woody vegetation communities in domestic gardens in relation to social and environmental factors. Ecology and Society 19:17.

D. Vitiello and M. Nairn 2009. Community Gardening in Philadelphia: 2008 Harvest Report. University of Pennsylvania Planning and Urban Studies, Philadelphia.

C.P. Wheater , J.R. Bell , and P.A. Cook 2011. Practical Field Ecology: A Project Guide. John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken, NJ.

S.E. Wortman and S.T. Lovell 2013. Environmental challenges threatening the growth of urban agriculture in the United States. Journal of Environmental Quality 42:12831294.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems
  • ISSN: 1742-1705
  • EISSN: 1742-1713
  • URL: /core/journals/renewable-agriculture-and-food-systems
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 5
Total number of PDF views: 46 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 310 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 20th August 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.