Socioecol Pract Res. 2022 Nov 11:1-22. doi: 10.1007/s42532-022-00133-7. Online ahead of print.
Community gardens represent vacant lots in urban areas with public or private land ownership that community members use primarily for urban agriculture. This research studies community gardens in Austin, Texas (USA), with the focus on: (1) approaches taken to govern community gardens and (2) socio-ecological outcomes of gardening associated with the implemented models of governance. Social outcomes are represented by the level of gardeners’ satisfaction and perceptions of their success. Environmental outcomes represent ecological services provided by gardens as green spaces and expressed through net primary productivity (NPP), which measures carbon sequestration. This paper argues that these types of outcomes in community gardens are codependent and affect each other, and the governance approach determines what forms this interdependence takes. This study employs Ostrom’s socio-ecological systems (SES) framework that reflects both social and natural aspects of community gardening and explains the connection between the governance approaches, gardeners’ perception of their success, and changes in carbon sequestration. This paper uses a mixed-methods approach with key informant interviews with managers of community gardens yielding both qualitative and quantitative data. Remote sensing analysis is applied to calculate the amount of biomass for the carbon sequestration model using remote sensing imagery from the ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station (ECOSTRESS) and Planet Inc. The analysis reveals that the highest measurements of the social and ecological performance in community gardens in Austin are associated with ‘bottom-up’ governance structures where community members are in charge of decision-making and management.