The complex interaction of local environment, resident socioeconomics, and cultural background of homeowners makes for colorful and distinct urban neighborhoods in large metropolises. These same components also influence vegetation patterns and food production in cities. The politics of open space and urban neighborhoods deeply colors the ecosystem services offered by urban agricultural spaces. Urban agriculture has long been at odds with demands for other urban land uses, like housing or transportation, influencing the style and form of agricultural spaces in these areas. In this meta-study, I use data from my previous studies on urban garden biodiversity to show how urban location based characteristics influence the structure and ecosystem services produced by garden spaces. I will discuss both the complexities of urban garden land ownership and permanence and the link between garden biodiversity and land access in DC, Los Angeles, and Beijing, China.
My research shows that land ownership is intrinsically tied to location and local economics. My studies show that low-income immigrant gardens are commonly grown on vacant lots, owned by absent private businesses, while higher income neighborhoods often own their lots or lease to governmental entities, providing them with a greater pool of resources. A common garden ecosystem service production pattern found was a “hierarchy of needs”; urban garden participants had an abundance of food species in low-income neighborhoods, while a greater diversity of ornamentals were in gardens set in higher income regions. These patterns are also linked to ethnic and cultural groups, with many of the species planted filling a cultural need not met by local markets. A higher percentage of community gardens in these cities are located in food deserts, areas with low access to healthy, culturally appropriate food. In Beijing, China, edible diversity increased in remote urban gardens, likely due to a dependence on gardens for complete dietary replacement. Finally, I explore urban space available in DC and link DC garden location to food acess variables. My varied research links gardener and societal desires to ecosystem service production through analysis of the politics of space and culture.