Global commitments and policy interventions for conservation have failed to halt widespread declines in plant biodiversity, highlighting an urgent need to engage novel approaches and actors. Here we propose that urban conservation gardening, namely the cultivation of declining native plant species in public and private green spaces, can be one such approach. We identify policy and complementary social mechanisms to promote conservation gardening and reform the existing horticultural market into an innovative nature-protection instrument. Conservation gardening can be an economically viable and participatory measure that complements traditional approaches to plant conservation.
This is a preview of subscription content
Subscribe to Journal
Get full journal access for 1 year
only 7,71 € per issue
All prices are NET prices.
VAT will be added later in the checkout.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.
All prices are NET prices.
Mace, G. M., Norris, K. & Fitter, A. H. Biodiversity and ecosystem services: a multilayered relationship. Trends Ecol. Evol. 27, 19–26 (2012).
Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES, 2019).
Williams, B. A. et al. A robust goal is needed for species in the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. Conserv. Lett. 14, e12778 (2021).
Rodrigues, A. S. L. et al. Effectiveness of the global protected area network in representing species diversity. Nature 428, 640–643 (2004).
Watson, J. E. M., Dudley, N., Segan, D. B. & Hockings, M. The performance and potential of protected areas. Nature 515, 67–73 (2014).
McCarthy, D. P. et al. Financial costs of meeting global biodiversity conservation targets: current spending and unmet needs. Science 338, 946–949 (2012).
Pe’er, G. et al. Action needed for the EU Common Agricultural Policy to address sustainability challenges. People Nat. 2, 305–316 (2020).
McDonald, R. I. et al. Research gaps in knowledge of the impact of urban growth on biodiversity. Nat. Sustain. 3, 16–24 (2020).
Rosenzweig, M. L. Reconciliation ecology and the future of species diversity. Oryx 37, 194–205 (2003).
Dunn, R. R., Gavin, M. C., Sanchez, M. C. & Solomon, J. N. The pigeon paradox: dependence of global conservation on urban nature. Conserv. Biol. 20, 1814–1816 (2006).
Callaghan, C. T. et al. How to build a biodiverse city: environmental determinants of bird diversity within and among 1581 cities. Biodivers. Conserv. 30, 217–234 (2021).
Ives, C. D. et al. Cities are hotspots for threatened species. Glob. Ecol. Biogeogr. 25, 117–126 (2016).
Soanes, K. & Lentini, P. E. When cities are the last chance for saving species. Front. Ecol. Environ. 17, 225–231 (2019).
Luck, G. W., Davidson, P., Boxall, D. & Smallbone, L. Relations between urban bird and plant communities and human well-being and connection to nature. Conserv. Biol. 25, 816–826 (2011).
Maller, C., Mumaw, L. & Cooke, B. in Rewilding (eds Pettorelli, N. et al.) Ch. 9 (Cambridge, Univ. Press, 2019).
Jiang, L. & O’Neill, B. C. Global urbanization projections for the Shared Socioeconomic Pathways. Glob. Environ. Change 42, 193–199 (2017).
Prévot, A.-C., Cheval, H., Raymond, R. & Cosquer, A. Routine experiences of nature in cities can increase personal commitment toward biodiversity conservation. Biol. Conserv. 226, 1–8 (2018).
Berthon, K., Thomas, F. & Bekessy, S. The role of ‘nativeness’ in urban greening to support animal biodiversity. Landsc. Urban Plan. 205, 103959 (2021).
van Heezik, Y., Freeman, C., Davidson, K. & Lewis, B. Uptake and engagement of activities to promote native species in private gardens. Environ. Manag. 66, 42–55 (2020).
Jorgensen, A. & Keenan, R. Urban Wildscapes (Routledge, 2012).
Majewska, A. A. & Altizer, S. Planting gardens to support insect pollinators. Conserv. Biol. 34, 15–25 (2020).
Tallamy, D. W. Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants (Timber Press, 2007).
Burghardt, K. T., Tallamy, D. W. & Gregory Shriver, W. Impact of native plants on bird and butterfly biodiversity in suburban landscapes. Conserv. Biol. 23, 219–224 (2009).
Kraljevic, A. & Mitlacher, G. Barometer on CBD’s Target for International Resource Mobilization (WWF, 2020).
Eichenberg, D. et al. Widespread decline in Central European plant diversity across six decades. Glob. Change Biol. 27, 1097–1110 (2020).
Lughadha, E. N. et al. Extinction risk and threats to plants and fungi. Plants People Planet 2, 389–408 (2020).
Metzing, D., Hofbauer, N., Ludwig, G. & Matzke-Hajek, G. Rote Liste Gefährdeter Tiere, Pflanzen und Pilze Deutschlands: Pflanzen/Redaktion: Detlev Metzing, Natalie Hofbauer, Gerhard Ludwig und Günter Matzke-Hajek (Bundesamt für Naturschutz, 2018).
Kalusová, V. et al. Naturalization of European plants on other continents: the role of donor habitats. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 114, 13756–13761 (2017).
Staude, I. R. et al. Directional turnover towards larger-ranged plants over time and across habitats. Ecol. Lett. 25, 466–482 (2021).
Galloway, J. N. et al. The nitrogen cascade. Bioscience 53, 341–356 (2003).
Lundholm, J. T. & Richardson, P. J. Mini-Review: Habitat analogues for reconciliation ecology in urban and industrial environments. J. Appl. Ecol. 47, 966–975 (2010).
Ellenberg, H. Gefahrdung wildlebender Pflanzenarten in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Versuch einer okologischen Betrachtung. Forstarchiv 57, 127–133 (1983).
Deeb, M. et al. Using constructed soils for green infrastructure—challenges and limitations. Soil 6, 413–434 (2020).
BuGG-Marktreport Gebäudegrün 2020 Dach-, Fassaden-und Innenraumbegrünung Deutschland Neu begrünte Flächen Bestand und Potenziale Kommunale Förderung (BuGG, 2020).
Reichard, S. H. & White, P. Horticulture as a pathway of invasive plant introductions in the United States: most invasive plants have been introduced for horticultural use by nurseries, botanical gardens, and individuals. Bioscience 51, 103–113 (2001).
der Lippe, M. & Kowarik, I. Do cities export biodiversity? Traffic as dispersal vector across urban—rural gradients. Divers. Distrib. 14, 18–25 (2008).
Razgour, O. et al. Considering adaptive genetic variation in climate change vulnerability assessment reduces species range loss projections. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 116, 10418–10423 (2019).
Goddard, M. A., Dougill, A. J. & Benton, T. G. Scaling up from gardens: biodiversity conservation in urban environments. Trends Ecol. Evol. 25, 90–98 (2010).
Sharrock, S. Plant Conservation Report 2020: A Review of Progress Towards the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation 2011–2020 CBD Technical Series No. 95 (Convention on Biological Diversity, 2020).
Ismail, S. A., Pouteau, R., van Kleunen, M., Maurel, N. & Kueffer, C. Horticultural plant use as a so-far neglected pillar of ex situ conservation. Conserv. Lett. 14, e12825 (2021).
Wüstemann, H., Kalisch, D. & Kolbe, J. Access to urban green space and environmental inequalities in Germany. Landsc. Urban Plan. 164, 124–131 (2017).
Kleingärten im Wandel—Innovationen für verdichtete Räume (BBSR, 2018).
Rudd, H., Vala, J. & Schaefer, V. Importance of backyard habitat in a comprehensive biodiversity conservation strategy: a connectivity analysis of urban green spaces. Restor. Ecol. 10, 368–375 (2002).
Kowarik, I. & von der Lippe, M. Plant population success across urban ecosystems: a framework to inform biodiversity conservation in cities. J. Appl. Ecol. 55, 2354–2361 (2018).
du Toit, M. J., Shackleton, C. M., Cilliers, S. S. & Davoren, E. in Urban Ecology in the Global South (eds Shackleton, C. M. et al.) 433–461 (Springer, 2021).
Sawyer, J. Saving threatened native plant species in cities—from traffic islands to real islands. In Greening the City: Bringing Biodiversity Back Into the Urban Environment: Proc. (ed Dawson, M. I.) 111–117 (Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture, 2005).
Webb, E. L. A Guide to the Native Ornamental Trees of American Samoa (National Univ. Singapore, 2011).
Pan, K. et al. Urban green spaces as potential habitats for introducing a native endangered plant, Calycanthus chinensis. Urban For. Urban Green. 46, 126444 (2019).
Gardening sales value worldwide from 2015 to 2020, with a forecast up to 2024. Statista statista.com/statistics/1220222/global-gardening-sales-value/ (2021).
Warenstromanalyse 2018: Blumen, Zierpflanzen & Gehölze (AMI, 2020).
Nature Awareness Study (Bundesamt für Naturschutz (BfN), 2019).
Abbandonato, H., Pedrini, S., Pritchard, H. W., De Vitis, M. & Bonomi, C. Native seed trade of herbaceous species for restoration: a European policy perspective with global implications. Restor. Ecol. 26, 820–826 (2018).
Hancock, N., Gibson-Roy, P., Driver, M. & Broadhurst, L. The Australian Native Seed Survey Report (Australian Network for Plant Conservation, 2020).
Wilkinson, D. M. Is local provenance important in habitat creation? J. Appl. Ecol. 38, 1371–1373 (2001).
Pedrini, S. & Dixon, K. W. International principles and standards for native seeds in ecological restoration. Restor. Ecol. 28, S286–S303 (2020).
De Vitis, M. et al. The European native seed industry: characterization and perspectives in grassland restoration. Sustainability 9, 1682 (2017).
Westwood, M., Cavender, N., Meyer, A. & Smith, P. Botanic garden solutions to the plant extinction crisis. Plants People Planet 3, 22–32 (2021).
Mounce, R., Smith, P. & Brockington, S. Ex situ conservation of plant diversity in the world’s botanic gardens. Nat. Plants 3, 795–802 (2017).
Pedrini, S. et al. Collection and production of native seeds for ecological restoration. Restor. Ecol. 28, S228–S238 (2020).
Groves, R. H. Can Australian native plants be weeds. Plant Prot. Q. 16, 114–117 (2001).
Brummitt, R. K., Pando, F., Hollis, S. & Brummitt, N. A. World Geographic Scheme for Recording Plant Distributions 2nd edn (Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation, 2001).
Davis, M. A. et al. Don’t judge species on their origins. Nature 474, 153–154 (2011).
Mumaw, L. & Bekessy, S. Wildlife gardening for collaborative public—private biodiversity conservation. Australas. J. Environ. Manag. 24, 242–260 (2017).
Mumaw, L. Transforming urban gardeners into land stewards. J. Environ. Psychol. 52, 92–103 (2017).
Abeli, T. et al. Ex situ collections and their potential for the restoration of extinct plants. Conserv. Biol. 34, 303–313 (2020).
Ladouceur, E. et al. Native seed supply and the restoration species pool. Conserv. Lett. 11, e12381 (2018).
Hyvärinen, M.-T. Rubus humulifolius rescued by narrowest possible margin, conserved ex situ, and reintroduced in the wild. J. Nat. Conserv. 55, 125819 (2020).
Holz, H., Segar, J., Valdez, J. & Staude, I. R. Assessing extinction risk across the geographic ranges of plant species in Europe. Plants People Planet https://doi.org/10.1002/ppp3.10251 (2022).
Brodie, J. F. et al. Global policy for assisted colonization of species. Science 372, 456–458 (2021).
Gann, G. D. et al. International principles and standards for the practice of ecological restoration. Restor. Ecol. 27, S1–S46 (2019).
Bower, A. D., Clair, J. B. S. & Erickson, V. Generalized provisional seed zones for native plants. Ecol. Appl. 24, 913–919 (2014).
Goddard, M. A., Dougill, A. J. & Benton, T. G. Why garden for wildlife? Social and ecological drivers, motivations and barriers for biodiversity management in residential landscapes. Ecol. Econ. 86, 258–273 (2013).
Ignatieva, M. & Ahrné, K. Biodiverse green infrastructure for the 21st century: from “green desert” of lawns to biophilic cities. J. Archit. Urban. 37, 1–9 (2013).
van Heezik, Y. M., Dickinson, K. J. M. & Freeman, C. Closing the gap: communicating to change gardening practices in support of native biodiversity in urban private gardens. Ecol. Soc. 17, 34 (2012).
Shaw, A. E. & Miller, K. K. Preaching to the converted? Designing wildlife gardening programs to engage the unengaged. Appl. Environ. Educ. Commun. 15, 214–224 (2016).
Mumaw, L. M. & Raymond, C. M. A framework for catalysing the rapid scaling of urban biodiversity stewardship programs. J. Environ. Manag. 292, 112745 (2021).
Niemiec, R., Jones, M. S., Lischka, S. & Champine, V. Efficacy-based and normative interventions for facilitating the diffusion of conservation behavior through social networks. Conserv. Biol. 35, 1073–1085 (2021).
Haywood, B. K., Parrish, J. K. & Dolliver, J. Place-based and data-rich citizen science as a precursor for conservation action. Conserv. Biol. 30, 476–486 (2016).
Lerman, S. B., Turner, V. K. & Bang, C. Homeowner associations as a vehicle for promoting native urban biodiversity. Ecol. Soc. 17, 45 (2012).
Nassauer, J. I. Messy ecosystems, orderly frames. Landsc. J. 14, 161–170 (1995).
Cavender, N., Smith, P. & Marfleet, K. BGCI Technical Review: The Role of Botanic Gardens in Urban Greening and Conserving Urban Biodiversity (BGCI, 2019).
We acknowledge funding of iDiv via the German Research Foundation (DFG FZT 118). C.T.C. was supported by a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship (number 891052). J.S. was supported by the project: TERRANOVA the European Landscape Learning Initiative, which has received funding from the European Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement number 813904. We also thank M. Schlatter for her valuable contributions at the beginning of the project and M. Hassler for kindly providing the photographs for Fig. 4.
The authors declare no competing interests.
Peer review information
Nature Sustainability thanks Robert McDonald, Laura Mumaw and Paul Smith for their contribution to the peer review of this work.
Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Segar, J., Callaghan, C.T., Ladouceur, E. et al. Urban conservation gardening in the decade of restoration. Nat Sustain (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-022-00882-z