Urban domestic gardens: The effects of human interventions on garden composition

Alison Loram, Philip H. Warren, Ken Thompson, Kevin Gaston

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Private domestic gardens contribute substantially to the biodiversity of urban areas and benefit human health and well-being. We previously reported a study of 267 gardens across five cities in the United Kingdom in which variation in geographical and climatic factors had little bearing on the richness, diversity and composition of plant species. We therefore hypothesise that garden management is an important factor in determining garden characteristics. Here, from the same sample of gardens, we investigate potential associations between the uses to which people put their gardens, the types of management activities they undertake, and the characteristics of those gardens. Householders (n = 265) completed a questionnaire detailing various aspects of garden use and management activities. The majority of respondents used their gardens chiefly for relaxation, recreation, and eating. Fewer than one fifth included "gardening" amongst their garden uses even though all performed some garden management, suggesting that not all management activity resulted from an interest in gardening. Garden-watering and lawn-mowing were the most prevalent activities and were predictors of other types of management including weeding, vegetation-cutting, leaf-collection, and dead-heading flowers. A number of these activities were associated with one another, the richness and composition of plant species, and the number of land uses in gardens. However, relationships between management activities and the amount of tall vegetation were less consistent, and garden management appeared to be independent of garden area. More species of amphibians, birds, and mammals were observed in gardens with ponds and in which efforts were made to attract wildlife, particularly by providing drinking water. This study supports the hypothesis that garden use and management is associated with garden characteristics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)808-824
Number of pages17
JournalEnvironmental Management
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Gardens
  • Housing
  • Management
  • Recreation
  • Vegetation
  • Wildlife gardening

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