Allotments for all? Social-environmental values of urban gardens for gardeners and the public in cities: the example of Berlin, Germany.
Gardens in cities have been the focus of a wider public health debate in Europe's polluted and dense cities, for the elderly and considering the current COVID-19 pandemic. Many cities report rising demand for allotment gardens by people from all age groups including young couples and families. This study aims at quantitatively examining the bundle of ecosystem services provided by allotment gardens in Berlin, Germany. It assesses the values related to those ecosystem services' benefits for gardeners and the wider urban public and compares perceptions of the social-environmental value of allotment gardens by gardeners and non-gardeners. We also compare the frequency of garden visits and the perception of gardens as a crucial element of the urban ecosystem by men and women. We carried out a web-based survey, additionally a part of the questionnaires was handed out in paper form for respondents who did not have internet access. The resulting sample of 466 gardeners and 80 non-gardeners shows that urban allotment gardens play an important role in food production, biodiversity conservation, but also social-environmental interactions. The variety of environmental management practices, such as installation of artificial nests for insects, sowing of special flower mixtures, leaving areas with wild vegetation, use of organic fertilizers, including crop residues, shows that most respondents among gardeners are aware of the methods aimed at maintaining biodiversity and soil fertility in their allotment. The sample's analysis further states that benefits are not only perceived by gardeners but also by non-gardeners. We discuss our findings against the background of the savings and sustainable enhancement of ecosystem services benefits that are created by allotment gardens for all.