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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Multifunctionality of community gardens and food forests in Vancouver, Canada Park, Hyeone


Urban food production systems such as community gardens and food forests are being promoted for their ability to provide multiple benefits, including food security, social cohesion, connection to nature, and climate change adaptation. Yet it is unclear whether and how people experience multiple benefits, or what factors are associated with higher levels of multifunctionality and different ecosystem services. In addition, while food forests are burgeoning in cities, there is still inconsistency in what constitutes urban food forestry in the scientific literature. To address these gaps, I first conducted a scooping review to examine ways in which the biological and functional characteristics of urban food production systems that involve trees in Northern America and Europe are described in the peer-reviewed literature. Secondly, I investigated the trade-offs and synergies between perceived provisioning and cultural ecosystem services that are valued by community gardeners in Vancouver, Canada. Finally, I identified bundles of provisioning, cultural, and regulating ES that are associated with similar biophysical and social characteristics of community gardens in Vancouver. To do so, I conducted a cross-sectional survey of 366 gardeners from 50 sites, 26 structured interviews with garden representatives, land use mapping, and tree inventory of 1,445 woody plants. The results of my research revealed that the current definition of “urban food forestry” includes a range of treed food systems with or without herbaceous plants that can provide multiple services. In Vancouver, community gardeners experience synergies between cultural services, and even between food and cultural services, with few perceived trade-offs. Lastly, while forest-like, large food forests with both individual plots and communal space for growing food seem to be the most multifunctional, small gardens may play an important role in promoting a sense of belonging and food sharing. My findings suggest that multifunctionality could be achieved in urban food production systems but requires strategic design (e.g., providing sufficient space for trees), management (e.g., a mix of individual and collective), and support of gardens (e.g., volunteers, technical assistance, resources). Moreover, different types of community gardens should be considered in order to best fit local contexts and meet different needs of communities.

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