Skip to main content

A systematic review of the relationship between urban agriculture and biodiversity

Abstract

Urban agriculture is a unique form of agriculture that can provide fresh, local produce for urban residents, and may benefit biodiversity by decreasing the need to expand agriculture into natural areas as well as enhancing biodiversity in urban areas. However, although urban agriculture is also often cited as promoting biodiversity in urban areas, the extent of empirical evidence for such claims has not been studied. Here we systematically review the relationship between urban agriculture and biodiversity in the scientific literature. We strictly define urban agriculture as areas in cities that grow produce specifically for human consumption. We examined 148 papers from 2000 to 2017, of which only 24 studies fit our definition of urban agriculture, and of those, only 18 both involved urban agriculture and measured biodiversity. Of the studies that did measure biodiversity, some showed increases in diversity compared to urban vacant lots, but other showed no difference. Moreover, these studies were mostly focused on plants and invertebrates and were conducted almost exclusively in North America. In order to use the generalization that urban agriculture will have a positive influence on urban biodiversity, more studies will need to be conducted across a wider geographic range worldwide (particularly in developing countries in the tropics) and on a greater diversity of species and taxa (e.g., herpetiles, birds and small mammals). Such studies will likely increase in conservation importance as urban expansion and agricultural demands increase globally.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  1. Alberti M, Marzluff JM, Schulenberger E, Bradley G, Ryan C, Zumbrunnen C (2003) Integrating humans into ecology: opportunities and challenges for studying urban ecosystems. BioSciene 53:1169–1179

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Bernholt H, Kehlenbeck K, Gebauer J, Buerkert A (2009) Plant species richness and diversity in urban and peri-urban gardens of Niamey, Niger. Agrofor Syst 77:159–179

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Burkman CE, Gardiner MM (2015) Spider assemblages within greenspaces of a deindustrialized urban landscape. Urban Ecosyst 18:793–818

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Burks JM, Philpott SM (2017) Local and landscape drivers of parasitoid abundance, richness, and composition in urban gardens. Environ Entomol 46:201–209. https://doi.org/10.1093/ee/nvw175

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  5. Ceballos G, Ehrlich PR, Barnosky AD, García A, Pringle RM, Palmer TM (2015) Accelerated modern human – induced species losses: entering the sixth mass extinction. Sciences. Advances 1:1–5

    Google Scholar 

  6. Clark KH, Nicholas KA (2013) Introducing urban food forestry: a multifunctional approach to increase food security and provide ecosystem services. Landsc Ecol 28:1649–1669

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Clarke LW, Jenerette GD (2015) Biodiversity and direct ecosystem service regulation in the community gardens of Los Angeles, CA. Landsc Ecol 30:637–653

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. d’Amour CB, Reitsma F, Baiocchi G, Barthel S, Güneralp B, Erb KH, Haberl H, Creutzig F, Seto KC (2017) Future urban land expansion and implications for global croplands. Proc Natl Acad Sci 114:8939–8944

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  9. Dearborn DC, Kark S (2009) Motivations for conserving urban biodiversity. Conserv Biol 24:432–440

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  10. Egerer MH, Bichier P, Philpott SM (2017) Landscape and local habitat correlates of lady beetle abundance and species richness in urban agriculture. Ann Entomol Soc Am 110:97–103. https://doi.org/10.1093/aesa/saw063

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Elmqvist T, Fragkias M, Goodness J, Güneralp B, Marcotullio PJ, McDonald RI, Parnell S, Schewenius M, Sendstad M, Seto KC, Wilkinson C (2013) Urbanization, biodiversity and ecosystem services: challenges and opportunities. Urbanization, biodiversity and ecosystem services: challenges and opportunities: a global assessment. Springer Open

  12. FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) (2009) Food for the cities. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome

    Google Scholar 

  13. FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) (2013) FAO statistical yearbook 2013. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome

    Google Scholar 

  14. FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) (2014) Growing greener cities in Latin America and the Caribbean. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome

    Google Scholar 

  15. FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) (2016) FAOSTAT: FAO statistical databases. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome

    Google Scholar 

  16. Farinha-Marques P, Lameiras JM, Fernandes C, Silva S, Guilherme F (2011) Urban biodiversity: a review of current concepts and contributions to multidisciplinary approaches. Innovation 24:247–271

    Google Scholar 

  17. Gairola S, Noresah MS (2010) Emerging trend of urban green space research and the implications for safeguarding biodiversity: a viewpoint. Nature and. Science 8:43–49

    Google Scholar 

  18. Gardiner MM, Prajzner SP, Burkman CE, Albro S, Grewal PS (2014) Vacant land conversion to community gardens: influences on generalist arthropod predators and biocontrol services in urban greenspaces. Urban Ecosystems 17:101–122

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Goddard MA, Dougill AJ, Benton TG (2010) Scaling up from gardens: biodiversity conservation in urban environments. Trends Ecol Evol 25:90–98

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  20. Green RE, Cornell SJ, Scharlemann JPW, Balmford A (2005) Farming and the fate of wild nature. Science 307:550–555

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  21. Grewal SS, Cheng Z, Masih S, Wolboldt M, Huda N, Knight A, Grewal PS (2011) An assessment of soil nematode food webs and nutrient pools in community gardens and vacant lots in two post-industrial American cities. Urban Ecosyst 14:181–194

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Guitart D, Pickering C, Byrne J (2012) Past results and future directions in urban community gardens research. Urban For Urban Green 11:364–373

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Gunnarsson B, Federsel LM (2014) Bumblebees in the city: abundance, species richness and diversity in two urban habitats. J Insect Conserv 18:1185–1191

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Haddaway NR, Bayliss HR (2015) Shades of grey: two forms of grey literature important for reviews in conservation. Biol Conserv 191:827–829

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Hamilton AJ, Burry K, Mok HF, Barker SF, Grove JR, Williamson VG (2014) Give peas a chance? Urban agriculture in developing countries. A review. Agron Sustain Dev 34:45–73

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  26. Heraty JM, Ellstrand NC (2016) Maize germplasm conservation in southern California’s urban gardens: introduced diversity beyond ex situ and in situ management. Econ Bot 70:37–48

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  27. Hope D, Gries C, Zhu W, Fagan WF, Redman CL, Grimm NB, Nelson AL, Martin C, Kinzig A (2003) Socioeconomics drive urban plant diversity. Proc Natl Acad Sci 100:8788–8792

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  28. Iram S, Ahmad I, Nasir K, Akhtar S (2011) Study of fungi from the contaminated soils of peri-urban agricultural areas. Pak J Bot 43:2225–2230

    Google Scholar 

  29. Konijnendijk C, Gauthier M (2006) Urban forestry for multifunctional urban land use. In: van Veenhuizen R, editor. Cities farming for the future: Urban agriculture for sustainable cities. RUAF Foundation, the Netherlands, IDRC, Canada and IIRR publishers, the Philippines, pp 411–442

  30. Lin BB, Fuller RA (2013) FORUM: sharing or sparing? How should we grow the world’s cities? J Appl Ecol 50:1161–1168

    Google Scholar 

  31. Lin BB, Philpott SM, Jha S (2015) The future of urban agriculture and biodiversity-ecosystems services: challenges and next steps. Basic Appl Biol 16:189–201

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Lowenstein DM, Matteson KC, Minor ES (2015) Diversity of wild bees supports pollination services in an urbanized landscape. Oecologia 179:811–821

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  33. Magle SB, Hunt VM, Vernon M, Crooks KR (2012) Urban wildlife research: past, present, and future. Biol Conserv 155:23–32

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Makinson JC, Threlfall CG, Latty T (2017) Bee-friendly community gardens: impact of environmental variables on the richness and abundance of exotic and native bees. Urban Ecosyst 20:463–476. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11252-016-0607-4

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Matteson KC, Langellotto GA (2010) Determinates of inner city butterfly and bee species richness. Urban Ecosyst 13:333–347

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Matteson KC, Langellotto GA (2011) Small scale additions of native plants fail to increase beneficial insect richness in urban gardens. Insect Conserv Divers 4:89–98

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Maxwell SL, Fuller RA, Brooks TM, Watson JEM (2016) The ravages of guns, nets and bulldozers. Nature 536:146–145

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  38. McClintock N (2010) Why farm the city? Theorizing urban agriculture through a lens of metabolic rift. Urban studies and planning faculty publications and presentations, PDXScholar, Paper 91

  39. McClintock N, Mahmoudi D, Simpson M, Santos JP (2016) Socio-spatial differentiation in the Sustainable City: a mixed-methods assessment of residential gardens in metropolitan Portland, Oregon, USA. Landsc Urban Plan 148:1–6

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. McDonald RI, Kareiva P, Forman RTT (2008) The implications of current and future urbanization for global protected areas and biodiversity conservation. Biol Conserv 141:1695–1703

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. McDonnell MJ, Hahs AK, Breuste JH (2009) Ecology of Cities and Towns: a comparative approach. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.

  42. Mok HF, Williamson VG, Grove JR, Burry K, Barker SF, Hamilton AJ (2014) Strawberry fields forever? Urban agriculture in developed countries: a review. Agron Sustain Dev 34:21–43

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Mougeot LJ (2000) Urban agriculture: definition, presence, potentials and risks. Bakker et al, eds. Growing Cities, Growing Food: Urban Agriculture on the policy Agenda. DSE, Feldafing

  44. Newman GD, Bowman AO, Jung Lee R, Kim B (2016) A current inventory of vacant urban land in America. J Urban Des 21:302–319

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Nielsen AB, van den Bosch M, Maruthaveeran S, van den Bosch CK (2014) Species richness in urban parks and its drivers: a review of empirical evidence. Urban Ecosyst 17:305–327

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Normandin É, Vereecken NJ, Buddle CM, Fournier V (2017) Taxonomic and functional trait diversity of wild bees in different urban settings. PeerJ 5:e3051. https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.3051

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  47. Orsini F, Kahane R, Nono-Womdim R, Gianquinto G (2013) Urban agriculture in the developing world: a review. Agron Sustain Dev 33:695–720

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. Otoshi M, Bichier P, Philpott S (2015) Local and landscape correlates of spider activity density and species richness in urban gardens. Environ Entomol 44:1–9

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. Philpott SM, Cotton J, Bichier P, Friedrich RL, Moorhead LC, Uno S, Valdez M (2014) Local and landscape drivers of arthropod abundance, richness, and trophic composition in urban habitats. Urban Ecosyst 17:513–532

    Article  Google Scholar 

  50. Poot-Pool WS, van der Wal H, Flores-Guido S, Pat-Fernández JM, Esparza-Olguín L (2015) Home garden agrobiodiversity differentiates along a rural—peri–urban gradient in Campeche, México. Econ Bot 69:203–217

    Article  Google Scholar 

  51. Quistberg RD, Bichier P, Philpott SM (2016) Landscape and local correlates of bee abundance and species richness in urban gardens. Environ Entomol 45:592–601. https://doi.org/10.1093/ee/nvw025

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. Semedo RJ, Barbosa RI (2007) Fruit trees in urban home gardens of Boa Vista, Roraima, Brazilian Amazonia. Acta Amazonica 37:497-504

  53. Seto KC, Fragkias M, Güneralp B, Reilly MK (2011) A meta-analysis of global urban land expansion. PLoS One 6:e23777

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  CAS  Google Scholar 

  54. Seto KC, Güneralp B, Hutyra LR (2012) Global forecasts of urban expansion to 2030 and direct impacts on biodiversity and carbon pools. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 109:16083–16088

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  55. Sorace A (2001) Value to wildlife of urban-agricultural parks: a case study from Rome urban area. Environ Manag 28:547–560

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  56. Taylor Lovell S (2010) Multifunctional urban agriculture for sustainable land use planning in the United States. Sustainability 2:2499–2522

    Article  Google Scholar 

  57. Thompson JL, Gebauer J, Hammer K, Buerkert A (2010) The structure of urban and peri-urban gardens in Khartoum, Sudan. Genet Resour Crop Evol 57:487–500

    Article  Google Scholar 

  58. Tilman D, Cassman KG, Matson PA, Naylor R, Polasky S (2002) Agricultural sustainability and intensive production practices. Nature 418:671–677

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  59. United Nations (2014a) Department of economic and social affairs, population division. World urbanization prospects: the 2014 revision. In: Highlights (ST/ESA/SER.A/352)

    Google Scholar 

  60. United Nations (2014b) Department of economic and social affairs, development policy and analysis division. World Economic Situation and Prospects 2014 (Sales No. E.14.II.C.2)

  61. Uno S, Cotton J, Philpott SM (2010) Diversity, abundance, and species composition of ants in urban green spaces. Urban Ecosystems 13:425–441

    Article  Google Scholar 

  62. USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) (2011) Memorandum from KA Merrigan, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture: Urban agriculture and gardening - Supporting farm viability, building access to nutritious, affordable food and encouraging rural-urban linkages. Washington, DC 14 October 2011. 

  63. Walker RE, Keane CR, Burke JG (2010) Disparities and access to healthy food in the United States: a review of food deserts literature. Health & Place 16:876–884

    Article  Google Scholar 

  64. Walker CM, Flynn KC, Ovando-Montejo GA, Ellis EA, Frazier AE (2017) Does demolition improve biodiversity? Linking urban green space and socioeconomic characteristics to avian richness in a shrinking city. Urban Ecosyst 20:1191–1202

    Article  Google Scholar 

  65. Zezza A, Tasciotti L (2010) Urban agriculture, poverty, and food security: empirical evidence from a sample of developing countries. Food Policy 35:265–273

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Barbara Clucas.

Electronic supplementary material

Table S1

(PDF 53 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Clucas, B., Parker, I.D. & Feldpausch-Parker, A.M. A systematic review of the relationship between urban agriculture and biodiversity. Urban Ecosyst 21, 635–643 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11252-018-0748-8

Download citation

Keywords

  • Biodiversity
  • Species richness
  • Urban green space
  • Urban agriculture
  • Urban gardens
  • Wildlife