Available online 3 February 2016
- Urban gardens provide manifold ecosystem services.
- Cultural ecosystem services are most important in urban gardens.
- Urban gardens enhance social cohesion, integration and healthy lifestyles.
- Urban gardens provide nature-based solutions for urban policy challenges.
- Urban planning can enhance ecosystem services by offering vacant land for gardening.
In many European cities, urban gardens are seen as increasingly important components of urban green space networks. We adopt an ecosystem services framework to assess contributions of urban gardens to the quality of of their users. First, we identify and characterize ecosystem services provided by urban gardens. Secondly, we assess the demographic and socioeconomic profile of its beneficiaries and the relative importance they attribute to different ecosystem services. Next we discuss the relevance of our results in relation to critical policy challenges, such as the promotion of societal cohesion and healthy lifestyles. Data were collected through 44 semi-structured interviews and a survey among 201 users of 27 urban gardens in Barcelona, Spain, as well as from consultation meetings with local planners. We identified 20 ecosystem services, ranging from food production over pollination to social cohesion and environmental learning. Among them, cultural ecosystem services (non-material benefits people derive from their interaction with nature) stand out as the most widely perceived and as the most highly valued. The main beneficiaries of ecosystem services from urban gardens are elder, low-middle income, and migrant people. Our results about the societal importance of urban gardens were deemed highly relevant by the interviewed green space planners in Barcelona, who noted that our data can provide basis to support or expand existing gardening programs in the city. Our research further suggests that ecosystem services from urban gardens can play an important role in addressing several urban policy challenges in cities, such as promoting stewardship of urban ecosystems, providing opportunities for recreation and healthy lifestyles, and promoting social cohesion. We conclude that urban gardens and associated ecosystem services can play an important in urban policies aimed at enhancing quality of life in cities, particularly if access to their benefits is expanded to larger segments of the population.
- Ecosystem services;
- Green infrastructure;
- Nature-based solutions;
- Urban agriculture
© 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.