Examining a Vacant Lot to Urban Garden Transitions to Determine Drivers of Ecological Wealth and Dearth

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Award Year: 
2017
Principal Investigator: 
Elsa C. Anderson, University of Illinois at Chicago
Monika Egerer, University of California, Santa Cruz
Associated Program: 

 

Urban areas experience rapid rates of land transformation. These transformations come in various forms and are precipitated by different stakeholders, but the consequences for local residents and ecological communities can be dramatic. Low-income communities of color are especially vulnerable to gentrification, a process by which higher earning social classes move in and displace local residents. The risk of gentrification is combined with significant environmental injustices, and there exists a paradox under which the very people that environmental improvements are designed to help are priced out of their homes and communities. Furthermore, environmental investments may not always have the intended ecological effects in these areas, and may contribute to decreased biodiversity and fewer ecosystem services. In this study, we aim to understand a particular land transformationthe installment of community gardens on vacant lotsand quantify the effects on social and ecological wealth in four US cities, Baltimore (MD), Chicago (IL), Detroit (MI), and Portland (OR). Specifically, we seek to answer the following questions: 1) how does the ecological community change following the establishment of a community garden and does this follow a successional pattern? 2) How does the social community change following the establishment of a community garden and is this indicative of a new wave of gentrification? 3) Do gentrification and succession follow parallel trajectories in this system? By addressing these questions, we strive to inform policy that effectively improves ecological functioning (and therefore ecosystem services) without the risk of displacing local lowincome residents.

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