Species Richness, Stem Density, and Canopy in Food Forests: Contributions to Ecosystem Services in an Urban Environment

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-7635

Article | Open Access

Species Richness, Stem Density, and Canopy in Food Forests: Contributions to Ecosystem Services in an Urban Environment


  • Cara A. Rockwell Institute of Environment, Florida International University, USA
  • Alex Crow Department of Earth and Environment, Florida International University, USA
  • Érika R. Guimarães Department of Earth and Environment, Florida International University, USA
  • Eduardo Recinos The Education Fund, USA
  • Deborah La Belle The Education Fund, USA


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Abstract:  Food forests expand the traditional concepts of urban forestry and agriculture, providing a broad diversity of tree-related ecosystem services and goods. Even though food forest systems bridge an obvious gap between agriculture and forestry, their potential value in the urban landscape is often undervalued. The inclusion of edible species in urban forest stands can enhance nutrition and well-being in the urban landscape, where food deserts are common. The potential for ecosystem services is especially pronounced in subtropical and tropical regions, where there is a heightened need for shade due to climate change-related heat waves. For this study, we investigated the tree species richness, stem density, and canopy cover provided by food forest gardens in 10 Miami-Dade County, Florida public schools located in the urban landscape. We compared results with neighboring properties around the schools and discovered that the food forest canopy was comparable with neighborhood urban tree cover. Additionally, we established that arborescent species richness (including an increase in edible taxa) and stem density was higher in food forests than in adjacent neighborhood plots. We posit that local food production could be enhanced by planting edible species in small spaces (e.g., empty lots or residential yards), as opposed to focusing on just ornamental taxa or recommended street trees. Our study highlights the importance of using mixed edible tree species plantings (especially with consideration to provisioning, regulating, and supporting services), potentially meeting urban forestry and agricultural goals proposed by urban planners and managers.

Keywords:  agroforestry; environmental services; green infrastructure; urban ecology; urban forestry; urban planning; urban sustainability

Published:  


DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/up.v7i2.5135


© Cara A. Rockwell, Alex Crow, Érika R. Guimarães, Eduardo Recinos, Deborah La Belle. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.