Landscape Ecology

, Volume 30, Issue 4, pp 637–653 | Cite as

Biodiversity and direct ecosystem service regulation in the community gardens of Los Angeles, CA

  • Lorraine Weller ClarkeEmail author
  • G. Darrel Jenerette
Research Article



Urban community gardens are globally prevalent urban agricultural areas and have the potential to fulfill human needs in impoverished neighborhoods, such as food security and access to open space. Despite these benefits, little research has been conducted evaluating environmental and socioeconomic factors influencing community garden plant biodiversity and ecosystem services (ES).


Our study investigated the drivers of managed plant richness, abundance, and ES production in community gardens across Los Angeles County, CA from 2010 to 2012 at regional, garden, and plot scales.


Fourteen community gardens were visited in the summers of 2010–2012 for comprehensive species surveys across regional, garden, and plot scales. We compared biodiversity to household income, plot size, and gardener ethnicity.


In total, 707 managed plant species were recorded in summer surveys over a 3-year period. Ornamental plant richness increased with neighborhood income, while edible and medicinal richness increased with size of garden plots. Gardener ethnicity also influenced the composition of managed species, especially edible species.


We explain these patterns through a hierarchy of needs framework; gardeners preferentially plant species progressively less connected to human need. Ornamental plant increases in high-income regions may be explained by their requirement for financial investment and maintenance time. Cultural and provisioning ES are important for immigrant populations, resulting in ethnically distinct crop assemblages. Finally, distinct species–area relationships imply high demand for food abundance and biodiversity. Our quantitative results indicate that community gardens contribute to a biologically diverse urban ecosystem and provide valued ecosystem services in food insecure regions.


Hierarchy of need Beta diversity Species–area relationship Socioeconomics Urban agriculture Food security 



For field research and data support, we thank Liangtao Li, Cara Fertitta, Lauren Velasco, and members of the Jenerette lab at UC Riverside. We also thank Derick Fay, Edith Allen, Norm Ellstrand, and Exequiel Ezcurra for ongoing research discussion. Finally, we thank UC Riverside herbarium director, Andrew Sanders for extensive aid in species identification and archiving samples. This project was supported by the US National Science Foundation (DEB 0919006), and the University of California, Riverside.

Supplementary material

10980_2014_143_MOESM1_ESM.docx (148 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 149 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Botany and Plant SciencesUniversity of California, RiversideRiversideUSA

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