New methods of spatial analysis in urban gardens inform future vegetation surveying

Monika H. Egerer, Benjamin Wagner, Brenda B. Lin, Dave Kendal, Kai Zhu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Context: Land use change requires measuring shifting patterns in biodiversity at various spatial scales to inform landscape management. Assessing vegetation change at different scales is challenging in urban ecosystems managed by many individuals. Thus, we do not know much about the structure and function of green spaces that support biodiversity. Objective: We aim to understand how vegetation structure and function indicators in urban community gardens vary with spatial scale, applying new and traditional methods in landscape ecology to inform future research and application. Methods: We performed two methods to assess garden vegetation structure (height) and function (species diversity, cover) at the garden- and garden plot scale. First, we used traditional field sampling to estimate garden vegetation at the garden scale (1 m2 quadrats along transects) and at the plot scale (estimated within entire plot) to measure height, diversity and cover. Second, we used UAV aerial imagery to derive measures of garden and plot vegetation using canopy height models (CHMs). We evaluated differences in CHMs at each scale across the gardens, and compared field and UAV-derived measures. Results: Garden vegetation characteristics vary with spatial scale. Plant species richness and vegetation cover, but not height, related to UAV-derived imagery. Conclusions: New technologies paired with traditional field methods can together inform how vegetation structure and function vary with spatial scale in urban landscapes. Spatial scale is key to accurate and meaningful urban vegetation analyses. New and traditional methods in urban ecology research should develop together to improve and streamline their future application.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)761-778
Number of pages18
JournalLandscape Ecology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Garden
  • Plant diversity
  • Remote sensing
  • Unmanned aerial vehicle
  • Urban agriculture


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