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Open AccessFeature PaperArticle

Growing Gardens in Shrinking Cities: A Solution to the Soil Lead Problem?

Department of Biological Sciences, Northern Kentucky University, Highland Heights, KY 41099, USA
Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Science, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL 61801, USA
Department of Human Ecology, University of California, Davis, CA 95616, USA
Department of Plant Sciences, University of California, Davis, CA 95616, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: William D. Shuster, Audrey L. Mayer and Ahjond S. Garmestani
Sustainability 2016, 8(2), 141;
Received: 10 December 2015 / Revised: 26 January 2016 / Accepted: 28 January 2016 / Published: 3 February 2016
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustaining the Shrinking City: Concepts, Dynamics and Management)
As cities shrink, they often leave a patchwork of vacancy on the landscape. The maintenance of vacant lands and eventual transformation to sustainable land uses is a challenge all cities face, but one that is particularly pronounced in shrinking cities. Vacant lands can support sustainability initiatives, specifically the expansion of urban gardens and local food production. However, many shrinking cities are the same aging cities that have experienced the highest soil lead burdens from their industrial past as well as the historic use of lead-based paint and leaded gasoline. Elevated soil lead is often viewed as a barrier to urban agriculture and managing for multiple ecosystem services, including food production and reduced soil lead exposure, remains a challenge. In this paper, we argue that a shift in framing the soil lead and gardening issue from potential conflict to potential solution can advance both urban sustainability goals and support healthy gardening efforts. Urban gardening as a potential solution to the soil lead problem stems from investment in place and is realized through multiple activities, in particular (1) soil management, including soil testing and the addition of amendments, and (2) social network and community building that leverages resources and knowledge. View Full-Text
Keywords: urban; gardening; agriculture; soil; metals; lead; shrinking cities; sustainability urban; gardening; agriculture; soil; metals; lead; shrinking cities; sustainability
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Schwarz, K.; Cutts, B.B.; London, J.K.; Cadenasso, M.L. Growing Gardens in Shrinking Cities: A Solution to the Soil Lead Problem? Sustainability 2016, 8, 141.

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