In defence of urban community gardens

Monika Egerer, Susan Karlebowski, Felix Conitz, Astrid E. Neumann, Julia M. Schmack, Ulrike Sturm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


With the boom in urban living has come a boom in urban gardening. In particular, urban community gardening is an increasingly popular form of horticultural production, community involvement and connection to nature. Through the establishment and management of community gardens, biodiversity can flourish, with community gardens as ‘hotspots’ of flora and fauna within the urban matrix. Gardeners can deeply connect with the natural elements of gardens and thus learn about and gain appreciation for the natural world. Such interactions can combat the loss of nature experiences in cities. Despite their benefits for nature and for people, community gardens are threatened ecosystems as often temporary fixtures in city landscapes due to lack of land tenure and policy protection. In this perspective, we recognize community gardens as an important ecosystem in urban conservation and argue for the defence of urban community gardens by city policy. We formalize this activity and the value of these ecosystems with scientific evidence from ecological and social-ecological research in 39 community gardens in Berlin and Munich, Germany. Although our data reveal that these gardens support large amounts of biodiversity and catalyse human-nature connections, a lack of comprehensive documentation of social-ecological benefits at the city level can make community gardens vulnerable to urban planning threats; we have seen losses of multiple research sites in the last 4 years of biodiversity research. Policy implications: To protect community gardens now and for future urban generations, we call for systematic and comprehensive data collection on community gardening activities and policy support for these urban ecosystems. Some cities are starting to do this and this can be scaled out. We argue for the recognition of urban community gardens as a physical land use and also of the gardeners themselves as important habitat managers and stewards of urban biodiversity. Read the free Plain Language Summary for this article on the Journal blog.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)367-376
Number of pages10
JournalPeople and Nature
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2024


  • biodiversity
  • political ecology
  • social-ecological systems
  • urban agriculture
  • urban green space
  • urbanization


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