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Special Issue "Agroecology in the City: Applying Ecological Principles to Sustainable Urban Agriculture"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Sustainable Agriculture, Food and Wildlife".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (16 April 2018)

Special Issue Editors

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Ivette Perfecto

School for Environment and Sustainability, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA
Website | E-Mail
Phone: +1-734-604-4331
Interests: biodiversity; agreocology; plant–animal interactions; food sovereignty
Guest Editor
Dr. Theresa Wei Ying Ong

Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544-2016, USA
Website | E-Mail
Phone: +1-310-357-4163
Interests: theoretical ecology; agroecology; urban agriculture
Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Stacy Philpott

Environmental Studies Department, University of California, Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA 95064, USA
Website | E-Mail
Phone: +1-831-459-1549
Interests: agroecology; conservation biology; landscape ecology; insect ecology; farmer livelihoods and well-being

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Urban agriculture creates pockets of diverse, verdant green spaces within harsh urban landscapes composed primarily of impervious surface. These novel ecosystems are widely documented to function as habitat for a diversity of organisms. However, studies focusing on how organisms within urban agriculture systems interact with each other and their environment and/or contribute to sustainability are rare. This Special Issue selectively collates studies within urban agriculture that address its unique ecology. Papers will address a variety of ecological topics including agroecology, landscape ecology, spatial ecology, meta-population theory, molecular ecology, biological control, behavioral ecology, urban ecology, biodiversity-ecosystem function, and socio-ecology. Papers selected for this Special Issue were subject to a rigorous peer review procedure with the aim of rapid and wide dissemination of research results, developments and applications.

Dr. Theresa W Ong
Prof. Dr. Stacy Philpott
Prof. Dr. Ivette Perfecto
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • biodiversity
  • sustainable agriculture
  • urban agriculture
  • landscape ecology
  • ecosystem function

Published Papers (8 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle Agroecological Pest Management in the City: Experiences from California and Chiapas
Sustainability 2018, 10(6), 2068; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10062068
Received: 24 April 2018 / Revised: 8 June 2018 / Accepted: 12 June 2018 / Published: 19 June 2018
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Abstract
Urban gardens are a prominent part of agricultural systems, providing food security and access within cities; however, we still lack sufficient knowledge and general principles about how to manage pests in urban agroecosystems in distinct regions. We surveyed natural enemies (ladybeetles and parasitoids)
[...] Read more.
Urban gardens are a prominent part of agricultural systems, providing food security and access within cities; however, we still lack sufficient knowledge and general principles about how to manage pests in urban agroecosystems in distinct regions. We surveyed natural enemies (ladybeetles and parasitoids) and conducted sentinel pest removal experiments to explore local management factors and landscape characteristics that influence the provisioning of pest control services in California, USA, and Chiapas, Mexico. We worked in 29 gardens across the two locations. In each location, we collected data on garden vegetation, floral availability, ground cover management, and the percentage of natural, urban, and agricultural land cover in the surrounding landscape. We sampled ladybeetles, Chalcidoidea, and Ichneumonoidea parasitoids with sticky traps, and monitored the removal of three different pest species. Ladybeetle abundance did not differ between locations; abundance decreased with garden size and with tree cover and increased with herbaceous richness, floral abundance, and barren land cover. Chalcicoidea and Ichneumonoidea parasitoids were more abundant in Chiapas. Chalcicoidea abundance decreased with herbaceous richness and with urban cover. Ichneumonoidea abundance increased with mulch and bare ground cover, garden size, garden age, and with agriculture land cover but decreased with tree richness and urban cover. Predators removed between 15–100% of sentinel prey within 24 h but prey removal was greater in California. Generally, prey removal increased with vegetation diversity, floral abundance, mulch cover, and urban land cover, but declined with vegetation cover and bare ground. Although some factors had consistent effects on natural enemies and pest control in the two locations, many did not; thus, we still need more comparative work to further develop our understanding of general principles governing conservation biological control in urban settings. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Garden Pollinators and the Potential for Ecosystem Service Flow to Urban and Peri-Urban Agriculture
Sustainability 2018, 10(6), 2047; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10062047
Received: 16 April 2018 / Revised: 12 June 2018 / Accepted: 14 June 2018 / Published: 16 June 2018
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Abstract
Hedgerows, flowering strips, and natural areas that are adjacent to agricultural land have been shown to benefit crop production, via the provision of insect pollinators that pollinate crops. However, we do not yet know the extent to which bee habitat in the form
[...] Read more.
Hedgerows, flowering strips, and natural areas that are adjacent to agricultural land have been shown to benefit crop production, via the provision of insect pollinators that pollinate crops. However, we do not yet know the extent to which bee habitat in the form of urban gardens might contribute to pollination services in surrounding crops. We explored whether gardens might provision pollinators to adjacent agricultural areas by sampling bees from gardens in the Portland, Oregon metropolitan area, and estimating typical foraging distances in the context of commercial- and residential-scale pollination-dependent crops up to 1000 m from garden study sites. We estimate that garden bees could forage outside of the garden in which they were collected, and that when pollination-dependent crops (commercial-scale or residential-scale) are nearby, 30–50% of the garden bee community could potentially provide pollination services to adjacent crops, if urban bees readily cross boundaries and forage among habitat types. Urban gardens might thus be well-positioned to provision neighboring farms and food gardens with pollination services, or could serve as a refuge for pollinators when forage is scarce or crop management practices are inhospitable. The actual capacity of gardens to serve as a refuge for pollinators from agricultural fields depends upon the extent to which bees forage across habitat types. However, relatively little is known about the degree to which bees move among habitat patches in heterogeneous landscapes. We thus propose a research agenda that can document the extent to which gardens contribute to pollinator health and pollination services at the interface of urban, peri-urban, and rural landscapes. In particular, more data is needed on how landscape context impedes or promotes garden bee movement between habitat types. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Indicators of Land Insecurity for Urban Farms: Institutional Affiliation, Investment, and Location
Sustainability 2018, 10(6), 1963; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10061963
Received: 17 April 2018 / Revised: 27 May 2018 / Accepted: 7 June 2018 / Published: 12 June 2018
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Abstract
As urban agriculture (UA) continues to expand in the United States, many practitioners question its continuation in cities with high property values and increased economic incentives for development. Frequently, these pressures make urban farmers anxious about investing resources, time, and energy in land
[...] Read more.
As urban agriculture (UA) continues to expand in the United States, many practitioners question its continuation in cities with high property values and increased economic incentives for development. Frequently, these pressures make urban farmers anxious about investing resources, time, and energy in land suitable for food production if tenure is insecure. Despite these concerns, UA continues to persist in areas experiencing increased property values and rent-seeking. Based on surveys with over 56 urban farm managers in California, we identify possible indicators of land tenure insecurity for urban farms. Our analysis finds that urban farms with greater land security have more financial and institutional support, and are located in census tracts with higher economic opportunity. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Colony Development and Reproductive Success of Bumblebees in an Urban Gradient
Sustainability 2018, 10(6), 1936; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10061936
Received: 17 April 2018 / Revised: 5 June 2018 / Accepted: 7 June 2018 / Published: 9 June 2018
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Abstract
Approximately 35% of all crop production is dependent on animal-mediated pollination. Many wild bee species are declining rapidly across North America and Europe, a potential consequence of land-use change driven by agricultural intensification and urbanization. In this study we assessed the impact of
[...] Read more.
Approximately 35% of all crop production is dependent on animal-mediated pollination. Many wild bee species are declining rapidly across North America and Europe, a potential consequence of land-use change driven by agricultural intensification and urbanization. In this study we assessed the impact of urbanization on the reproductive success and population growth rate of bumblebees in an urbanization gradient. We placed experimental nests in ten sites; all except one were community gardens, ranging from a 0–99% degree of urbanization. Reproductive success and colony size were positively correlated with cumulative weight gain of the nests (p < 0.05). We did not find an effect of urbanization on the population growth rate of the nests or on forager activity (p > 0.05). Growth rate was strongly negatively affected by the abundance of wax moth larvae (p < 0.05) and positively correlated with parasite diversity (p < 0.05) and the number of foragers entering the nest (p < 0.01). With this study we show that not only bottom-up but also top-down effects are equally important for pollinator population dynamics. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Unique Bee Communities within Vacant Lots and Urban Farms Result from Variation in Surrounding Urbanization Intensity
Sustainability 2018, 10(6), 1926; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10061926
Received: 1 May 2018 / Revised: 30 May 2018 / Accepted: 5 June 2018 / Published: 8 June 2018
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (1494 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
We investigated the relative importance of vacant lot and urban farm habitat features and their surrounding landscape context on bee community richness, abundance, composition, and resource use patterns. Three years of pan trap collections from 16 sites yielded a rich assemblage of bees
[...] Read more.
We investigated the relative importance of vacant lot and urban farm habitat features and their surrounding landscape context on bee community richness, abundance, composition, and resource use patterns. Three years of pan trap collections from 16 sites yielded a rich assemblage of bees from vacant lots and urban farms, with 98 species documented. We collected a greater bee abundance from vacant lots, and the two forms of greenspace supported significantly different bee communities. Plant–pollinator networks constructed from floral visitation observations revealed that, while the average number of bees utilizing available resources, niche breadth, and niche overlap were similar, the composition of floral resources and common foragers varied by habitat type. Finally, we found that the proportion of impervious surface and number of greenspace patches in the surrounding landscape strongly influenced bee assemblages. At a local scale (100 m radius), patch isolation appeared to limit colonization of vacant lots and urban farms. However, at a larger landscape scale (1000 m radius), increasing urbanization resulted in a greater concentration of bees utilizing vacant lots and urban farms, illustrating that maintaining greenspaces provides important habitat, even within highly developed landscapes. Full article
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Open AccessFeature PaperArticle Context Matters: Contrasting Ladybird Beetle Responses to Urban Environments across Two US Regions
Sustainability 2018, 10(6), 1829; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10061829
Received: 8 April 2018 / Revised: 16 May 2018 / Accepted: 30 May 2018 / Published: 1 June 2018
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Abstract
Urban agroecosystems offer an opportunity to investigate the diversity and distribution of organisms that are conserved in city landscapes. This information is not only important for conservation efforts, but also has important implications for sustainable agricultural practices. Associated biodiversity can provide ecosystem services
[...] Read more.
Urban agroecosystems offer an opportunity to investigate the diversity and distribution of organisms that are conserved in city landscapes. This information is not only important for conservation efforts, but also has important implications for sustainable agricultural practices. Associated biodiversity can provide ecosystem services like pollination and pest control, but because organisms may respond differently to the unique environmental filters of specific urban landscapes, it is valuable to compare regions that have different abiotic conditions and urbanization histories. In this study, we compared the abundance and diversity of ladybird beetles within urban gardens in California and Michigan, USA. We asked what species are shared, and what species are unique to urban regions. Moreover, we asked how beetle diversity is influenced by the amount and rate of urbanization surrounding sampled urban gardens. We found that the abundance and diversity of beetles, particularly of unique species, respond in opposite directions to urbanization: ladybirds increased with urbanization in California, but decreased with urbanization in Michigan. We propose that in California water availability in gardens and the urbanization history of the landscape could explain the divergent pattern. Thus, urban context is likely a key contributor to biodiversity within habitats and an important consideration for sustainable agricultural practices in urban agroecosystems. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Linking Multifunctionality and Sustainability for Valuing Peri-Urban Farming: A Case Study in the Turin Metropolitan Area (Italy)
Sustainability 2018, 10(5), 1625; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10051625
Received: 16 April 2018 / Revised: 11 May 2018 / Accepted: 14 May 2018 / Published: 18 May 2018
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Abstract
Agriculture plays a key role in managing the peri-urban landscapes in Europe, influencing their social, aesthetic and environmental functions. Considering the increase in urban population and land consumption in the last decades, sustainability in peri-urban areas is a priority. Farming multifunctionality is the
[...] Read more.
Agriculture plays a key role in managing the peri-urban landscapes in Europe, influencing their social, aesthetic and environmental functions. Considering the increase in urban population and land consumption in the last decades, sustainability in peri-urban areas is a priority. Farming multifunctionality is the integration of different functions and activities that produce beneficial effects on local economy, environment and society. Three research questions were explored: How is multifunctionality applied in peri-urban agroecosystems? How do we ensure sustainability in peri-urban agroecosystem? How could a bottom-up approach promote sustainable actions, strategies and policies? The Chieri Municipality (Turin Metropolitan Area, Italy) was chosen as representative case study. A trans-scalar approach from the farm to the municipality levels was adopted. The analysis of statistical data and farmers’ interviews were performed. Multifunctionality for three main farm categories (crops and grasslands; vineyards and orchards; and horticulture) was explored using the following parameters: website presence, online selling, agritourism, didactic farms, nonagricultural activities, maintenance parks and gardens, renewable energy, and transformation. According to the different farm types, multifunctionality assumes different aspects covering specific sets of sustainability needs. We consider important to move from the farm level multifunctionality to the landscape level multifunctionality in order to provide all services at a territorial scale. As a result, the following perspectives and strategies were proposed: increasing rural farm networks and cooperation, promoting initiates for valorizing the local food products, including farms in touristic and cultural networks, and involving farmers in social and didactic programs. In conclusion, this methodology could be applied for decision makers and planners for implementing a participatory approach in environmental-social and economic programs for peri-urban areas. Full article
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Review

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Open AccessReview Who Cares? The Importance of Emotional Connections with Nature to Ensure Food Security and Wellbeing in Cities
Sustainability 2018, 10(6), 1844; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10061844
Received: 16 April 2018 / Revised: 10 May 2018 / Accepted: 29 May 2018 / Published: 2 June 2018
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Abstract
To be “connected” is “to care”, because how and what we care about is influenced, and influences, what we are connected with. Emotional connection predicts environmental concern and children exposed to green environments take this appreciation of nature with them into adulthood. However,
[...] Read more.
To be “connected” is “to care”, because how and what we care about is influenced, and influences, what we are connected with. Emotional connection predicts environmental concern and children exposed to green environments take this appreciation of nature with them into adulthood. However, the majority of the human population is now living within urban areas, where opportunities for people to interact and bond with nature are greatly diminished, thereby potentially threatening the liveability of cities into the future. Connection with nature has been shown repeatedly to benefit human wellbeing and predict pro-environmental behaviours. By definition “nature” includes urban agriculture, which is also an integral component of a city’s foodscape, thereby providing opportunities to improve the wellbeing of city inhabitants as well as help ensure food security. This will only be attainable if the next generation has an emotional connection to nature, and the necessary life skills to help them enter adult life as informed food citizens who make healthy and sustainable decisions for themselves as well as others. This paper reviews existing literature on foodscape (or one’s food environment) and biophilia (the love of life or living systems) to highlight the need for inter-disciplinary research that combines urban agriculture and food literacy to ensure future food security and wellbeing of urban inhabitants. Full article
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