Getting more benefits from your garden

Lin, B.B., Gaston, K.J., Fuller, R.A., Wu, D.S., Bush, R., Shanahan, D.F. 2017. How green is your garden?: Urban form and socio-demographic factors influence yard vegetation, visitation, and ecosystem service benefits. Landscape and Urban Planning 157, 239-246. (Image from Shutterstock) shutterstock_77993656

Private yards provide city residents with access to ecosystem services that can be realized through passive (vegetation availability) and active (time spent in yards: frequency and duration) means. However, urban densification is leading to smaller yards with less vegetation. Here, we examine how urban form and socio-demographic factors affect the potential ecosystem service benefits people can gain via passive (e.g. climate regulation) and active (e.g. recreation) pathways. Two measures of vegetation cover (0.15–2 m, >2 m) are used as a proxy for passive ecosystem service benefits, and two measures of yard use (use frequency, total time spent across a week) are used for active ecosystem service benefits. We use survey and GIS data to measure personal and physical predictors that could influence these variables for 520 residents of detached housing in Brisbane, Australia. We found house age and yard size were positively correlated with vegetation cover, and people with a greater nature relatedness and lower socio-economic disadvantage also had greater vegetation cover. Yard size was an important predictor of yard use, as was nature relatedness, householder age, and presence of children in the home. Vegetation cover showed no relationship, indicating that greater cover alone does not promote ecosystem service delivery through the active use pathway. Together our results show that people who have higher nature relatedness may receive greater benefits from their yards via both passive and active means as they have more vegetation available to them in their yards and they interact with this space more frequently and for longer time periods.