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Although hardly noticed or formally recognised, urban foraging by humans probably occurs in all urban settings around the world. We draw from research in India, South Africa, Sweden, and the United States to demonstrate the ubiquity and varied nature of urban foraging in different contexts. Across these different contexts, we distil seven themes that characterise and thereby advance thinking about research and the understanding of urban foraging. We show that it is widespread and occurs across a variety of urban spaces and places. The species used and the local practices vary between contexts, and are in constant flux as urban ecological and social settings change. This requires that urban foragers are knowledgeable about diverse species, harvest locations, and rights of access, and that their practices are adaptable to changing contexts. Despite its ubiquity, most cities have some forms of regulations that prohibit or discourage urban foraging. We highlight a few important exceptions that can provide prototypes and lessons for other cities regarding supportive policy frameworks and initiatives. The formulation of dynamic policy, design, and management strategies in support of urban foraging will benefit from understanding the common characteristics of foraging in cities worldwide, but also will require comprehension of the specific and dynamic contexts in which they would be implemented.
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Urban Foraging: A Ubiquitous Human Practice
Overlooked by Urban Planners, Policy, and Research
Charlie M. Shackleton 1, *ID , Patrick T. Hurley 2ID , Annika C. Dahlberg 3ID , Marla R. Emery 4ID
and Harini Nagendra 5ID
1Department of Environmental Science, Rhodes University, Grahamstown 6140, South Africa
Department of Environmental Studies, Ursinus College, Collegeville, PA 19426, USA;
3Department of Physical Geography, Stockholm University, 10691 Stockholm, Sweden;
4U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station, South Burlington, VT 05405,
5School of Development, Azim Premji University, PES Institute of Technology Campus, Bengaluru,
Karnataka 560100, India;
Received: 22 August 2017; Accepted: 15 October 2017; Published: 20 October 2017
Although hardly noticed or formally recognised, urban foraging by humans probably
occurs in all urban settings around the world. We draw from research in India, South Africa, Sweden,
and the United States to demonstrate the ubiquity and varied nature of urban foraging in different
contexts. Across these different contexts, we distil seven themes that characterise and thereby advance
thinking about research and the understanding of urban foraging. We show that it is widespread
and occurs across a variety of urban spaces and places. The species used and the local practices vary
between contexts, and are in constant flux as urban ecological and social settings change. This requires
that urban foragers are knowledgeable about diverse species, harvest locations, and rights of access,
and that their practices are adaptable to changing contexts. Despite its ubiquity, most cities have
some forms of regulations that prohibit or discourage urban foraging. We highlight a few important
exceptions that can provide prototypes and lessons for other cities regarding supportive policy
frameworks and initiatives. The formulation of dynamic policy, design, and management strategies
in support of urban foraging will benefit from understanding the common characteristics of foraging
in cities worldwide, but also will require comprehension of the specific and dynamic contexts in
which they would be implemented.
Keywords: actors; benefits; dynamics; tenure; urban foraging; urban spaces
1. Introduction
Foraging by humans for wild plant, fungi and animal resources from formal and informal
urban green spaces is commonplace in most modern urban centres, and has likely been throughout
the establishment and growth of cities, old and new, around the world [
]. However, during the
twentieth century, it became invisible to urban planners and researchers within the paradigm of the
sanitary city [
], thereby masking its social, cultural, ecological, and often economic importance.
However, the growing appreciation of the importance of formal and informal green spaces for
urban sustainability and human well-being, has offered new perspectives and insights regarding the
widespread prevalence of and practices associated with urban foraging, and potential opportunities
for revising how multifunctional urban green spaces could be conceived and managed [3].
With few exceptions, the concept and practice of urban foraging is still poorly acknowledged
by urban planning and management authorities and researchers [
]. For example, Haarland and
Sustainability 2017,9, 1884; doi:10.3390/su9101884
Sustainability 2017,9, 1884 2 of 18
Konijnendijk van den Bosch [
] do not mention urban foraging in their recent review of challenges
resulting from urban densification, nor does the more recent review [
] on edible green infrastructure
in cities describe or discuss foraging (although they do mention edible urban greening). Similarly,
the systematic review of 174 papers by Rupprecht et al. [
] on the nature and use of informal urban
green spaces mentioned urban foraging once, with two citations reporting on species used, but there
was no detail on the social practices and multiple benefits of urban foraging. There is no mention of
urban foraging in the extensive literature on the health benefits of urban green spaces [
], although
it is an activity that may also have health benefits. A recent synthesis paper on the way forward
in urban ecology research [
] also overlooks urban foraging. Whilst McPhearson et al. [
] stress
ecosystem services throughout their paper, exemplified through the need for cities to manage climatic
hazards, there is no mention of the ability of urban green areas to provide goods in the form of edible
and medicinal plants. Yet, research examining the potential provisioning and cultural ecosystem
services from New York City’s woody species reported that 252 species, or 83% of the trees and shrubs
found within the city, have at least one potential use. Since many species may be used for multiple
purposes, collectively, these 252 species represented 581 distinct uses for food, medicine, or other
purposes (Hurley & Emery pers. comm.). A narrower focus on the city’s street trees reveals that 78%
could potentially provide edible materials, 74% medicinal materials, and 62% materials for other uses.
A meta-analysis of multiple cities in the United States (US) revealed similar patterns in the widespread
utilitarian values present in various urban forests [11].
The prevailing focus on a few quantifiable ecosystem services by research and planning agencies
has been critiqued as being too narrow, and thus overlooking the importance of what may be termed
cultural ecosystem services [
]. Based on the evidence put forward in the present paper, it is clear that
research on the value of, and threats to, urban green areas would benefit by including a wider array
of material goods and their linked immaterial benefits in the understanding of goods and services
provided by urban plants, animals, soils, and waters. Consequently, the objective of this thought piece
paper is to consolidate some of the emerging ideas and work to provide a cross-continental exposé
of the practice of urban foraging, and question much received wisdom or assumptions regarding
the peripheral nature of urban foraging in terms of spaces, extent, roles, and species. We do so by
bringing together relatively young and emerging pictures of urban foraging across four very different
settings: namely, India, South Africa, Sweden, and the US, supported with reference to other work
internationally. We selected these four settings to provide what are superficially two developing and
two developed countries where there is some body of literature on urban foraging. However, we argue
that urban foraging is better understood at the local level, and hence national level designations are
not particularly useful, except for instances where knowledge on species in common from different
countries can be shared. Irrespective of national setting, the evidence that we collate shows that urban
foraging may be practiced by rich and poor alike, employed and unemployed, literate and illiterate,
migrants and long-term residents, with motivations and practices of individual foragers varying in
time and place.
Before engaging with the case material on urban foraging, largely from the four countries, it is
useful to define what we mean by the term. We regard urban foraging as the practice of harvesting
or gathering raw biological resources (fungi, plants, parts of plants, invertebrate and vertebrate
animals, and fish) within urban and peri-urban settings primarily for direct consumption, decoration,
crafts, barter, or small-scale sale. Following Poe et al. [
], urban foraging can include wild or
domesticated species in managed or unmanaged and private or public spaces. The products can
be from self-reproducing plants or animals, or from those propagated directly by the harvesters or
other people or agencies. Thus, at the one extreme it overlaps with urban agriculture, but at the other
is entirely distinct [
]. Urban foraging provides a wide range of benefits to those who practice it
(Figure 1), including improved physical and psychological health, social ties with fellow foragers,
sense of place, increased ecological knowledge, stronger connections with nature, food, income or cash
saving, and a source of pride [11,13].
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It is apparent from this definition that we conceive urban foraging as a multidisciplinary subject
(Figure 1), even a transdisciplinary one, if urban authorities are to design enabling policies and
plans supportive of the multiple forms of urban foraging. This is necessary because much, albeit not
all, urban foraging research is dichotomised between studies that either focus on resource supply,
conservation, and management (i.e., what is there and used), or consider the foragers, their practices,
knowledge, motivations and livelihoods (i.e., the people). These broad disciplinary fields need to be
bridged for an integrated understanding and accommodation of the complexity of urban foraging as it
relates to concepts, practice, and theory (Figure 1). However, a full review and analysis of disciplinary
treatments of urban foraging to date is outside the scope of this paper. Scholarship on urban foraging
draws on multiple concepts from social and ecological sciences, which have foundations in several
social and ecological theories (such as common property, complexity, and social-ecological theory),
which together have pertinence to a variety of practical domains such as urban planning, green space
governance, and diversity management (Figure 1). To date, most papers on urban foraging are more
empirical than theoretical, which is natural for an emerging field. Despite the applicability of a number
of disciplinary theoretical and conceptual frameworks, a potentially useful overarching one is the
broad framework of political ecology. This is because it addresses change over time, integrates social
and natural sciences perspectives, includes a critical analysis of environmental justice, and explicitly
looks at how power relations shape need, access, use, and governance responses.
Sustainability 2017, 9, x FOR PEER REVIEW 4 of 27
Figure 1: The multiple dimensions of urban foraging at the intersection of practice, concepts 145
and theory. 146
The development of this thought piece was an iterative process. We identified themes that 148
could be supported by research findings from our own four countries, then added materials 149
available from other countries, and finally considered the policy, planning and research 150
implications. This approach also defines the structure of the article. In the next section we 151
present seven themes pertaining to urban foraging that we advocate are germane to its 152
recognition in urban research and policy debates. Given the multifunctionality of urban 153
foraging (Fig. 1) it is inevitable that there is some overlap between some of the themes as the 154
boundaries are artificial but serve to divide the broad subject into manageable conceptual 155
segments. The concluding section then synthesises the core planning and policy messages. 156
- Multifunctionality
- Biocultural diversity
- Resilience
- Local ecological knowledge
- Sense of place & identity
- Social spaces
- Novel ecosystems
- Ecosystem services
- Non-timber forest
- Urban ecology
- Social-ecological
- Common property
- Environmental justice
- Political ecology
- Complexity/systems
- Urban planning
- Green spaces mgmt.
- Multifunctionality
- Diversity
- Governance
- Access & equity
- Human health & wellbeing
Figure 1.
The multiple dimensions of urban foraging at the intersection of practice, concepts, and theory.
The development of this thought piece was an iterative process. We identified themes that could
be supported by research findings from our own four countries, then added materials available from
other countries, and finally considered the policy, planning, and research implications. This approach
also defines the structure of the article. In the next section, we present seven themes pertaining to
urban foraging that we advocate as germane to its recognition in urban research and policy debates.
Sustainability 2017,9, 1884 4 of 18
Given the multifunctionality of urban foraging (Figure 1), it is inevitable that there is some overlap
between some of the themes, as the boundaries are artificial, but serve to divide the broad subject
into manageable conceptual segments. The concluding section then synthesises the core planning and
policy messages.
2. Emerging Themes of Urban Foraging
2.1. Theme 1: Urban Foraging Is Widespread, Occurring in All Types of Towns, Cities and Countries
Foraging is not new, in either rural or urban settings. Hunter–gatherers, past and present,
obviously relied on foraging, but so did (and often do) settled farming communities, whether to
supplement their own consumption or for small-scale trade [
]. The harvesting of wild resources in
rural areas is relatively well known, as described for the developed world from several countries in
Europe [
], and for the developing world in areas such as India and sub-Saharan Africa [
Foraging in rural areas is done by rural residents as well as people living in towns and cities, as
exemplified by studies on the harvesting of berries and mushrooms in Finland [
], a variety of
non-timber forest products in Scotland [
], and multiple edible species in Argentina [
], among
many other examples. Some work has been conducted on the history of urban harvesting of wild and
semi-wild produce, as for example, Konijnendijk’s [
] research of the European context. However,
as stressed by several researchers, contemporary foraging within the borders of urban and peri-urban
environments receives less attention in both the developed [26] and developing worlds [4,27].
In much of the developed world for the past decades, urban green areas have been seen as and
planned mainly for providing services such as recreation, shade, and stormwater management [
and the most recent research on urban green areas has this focus [
]. However, this relatively narrow
emphasis is slowly changing. There is growing recognition that a variety of urban green areas also
produce goods that can be harvested, and the practices associated with doing so are important in their
own right [4,6,13].
Although research is lacking from many countries and regions, we suggest that urban foraging is
a global phenomenon. Given the documentation of people foraging in such diverse settings as several
US cities [
], Bangalore [
], Delhi [
], Stockholm [
], Edinburgh [
], urban and peri-urban
areas in Japan [
], Uganda 45], and towns in South Africa [
], there is reason to believe it occurs in
cities and towns hitherto not researched. In the studies referred to here, the species harvested included
fungi, flowers, berries, medicinal plants, and much more. Some studies focussed on groups of species,
such as fungi, whilst others include all of the species harvested by a specific group of foragers, or in a
specific space. Reasons for foraging are diverse, and include, but are not limited to: subsistence needs,
recreation, cultural and religious purposes, education, health, and commitments to local food security
and sustainability [
]. These motivations can transcend global and local differences in wealth,
lifestyles, cultures, and legal structures. What is clear from much of the emerging research on urban
foraging and foragers is that much more research is needed in both developing and developed parts of
the world.
Although many studies on urban foraging focus on species and uses, an increasing number are
equally interested in foragers and their motivations and practices. Here, a multitude and diversity is
revealed that unites rather than distances foragers and foraging in different countries. In the developing
world, research has clearly demonstrated that poor urban communities make use of products from
trees and other plants growing in or at the fringe of urban areas. Examples range from several studies in
South Africa [
] to towns in Zimbabwe [
], Botswana [
], Tanzania and Cameroon [
]; Kampala
in Uganda [
], Santa Cruz in Bolivia [
], and Bangalore in India [
]. The plants or plant parts that
these studies show are commonly collected have a wide range of uses, including: berries or fruit for
home consumption or sale; leaves, roots, and bark for medicines; poles for construction; and reeds
for craft. However, in the developed world, urban foraging can also be a means towards improved
food security, and supply other material and immaterial benefits [
]. For example, work in Seattle
Sustainability 2017,9, 1884 5 of 18
in the US has shown that far from being unimportant, harvesting in urban green areas is practiced
by many and for multiple reasons [
], such as the collection of fruit and greens for food, medicinal
products, and raw materials for craft work. Furthermore, civic groups promoting citizens’ rights to
forage in urban green spaces are in some cities beginning to have an impact on planners and the vision
statements of different authorities concerned with urban green planning [26].
2.2. Theme 2: Urban Foraging Occurs across the Full Range of Urban Landscapes and Spaces
Urban foraging occurs in a wide range of urban landscapes, including diverse ecological
spaces and cultural places. Foragers find plant materials and fungi of interest to them in city
parks, institutional campuses, street tree planting areas, remnant urban woodlots, vacant lots,
cemeteries, transportation and other infrastructure rights-of-way, residential yards, and allotment
gardens [
]. Interviews with foragers about their typical practices have detailed the
importance of having access to a wide diversity of forest, shrub, and understory plants, including wild
and native species, ornamental plantings, ruderal species, and spontaneous vegetation [
These different sites and species are well documented in the US, with a range of examples, such as:
foragers in Seattle sourcing edible, medicinal, and craft-related species in parks; mulberries and ginkgo
berries harvested from street trees and edible mushrooms from street tree pits in New York City [
foragers in inner city Philadelphia locating dandelions and other greens for their use in everyday
meals from cemeteries, alleyways, and neighbours’ yards; and foragers in suburban Philadelphia
harvesting service berries from the ornamental plantings of new housing developments and around
public buildings [
]. In Syracuse, New York in the US, an immigrant group whose urban garden
was vandalised and crops destroyed foraged “weeds” from nearby vacant lots, thereby ensuring
their families were able to meet critical short-term food needs. In New Zealand, interviews with
Maori elders revealed that fragmented lands in urban areas provided access to important medicinal
plants [41].
Urban foraging research in the developing world is revealing the complex ways that residents
use urban spaces to secure food, medicines, and other material resources. Research from South Africa
highlights the importance of trees for the provision of foods, medicines, and materials, including the
harvest of items from homestead trees planted for other purposes [
]. This includes fruit trees planted
on personal lands and those of friends or relatives, while wild fruits were collected on commons in
the peri-urban areas of towns. In some cases, foraged fruits from diverse urban spaces supplemented
other harvests and purchases [
], whereas wooded urban and peri-urban areas were a source of poles
for building construction [
]. In Bangalore (India), local lake beds provide nutritionally rich greens,
and urban woodlots offer access to key fruits. Foraging in slums provides access to food and medicine
from herbaceous plants, vines, shrubs, and trees that likely grew as spontaneous vegetation, with more
than 25% of the species encountered in alleyways used by residents for food or other culinary uses [
Publicly owned and managed lands appear to be particularly important to foragers. In the
US, for example, parks in New York City, Philadelphia, and Seattle are among the most frequently
mentioned foraging sites [
]. This includes large, iconic parks, as well as small neighbourhood
greenspaces. More than 75% of documented foraging in Philadelphia takes place in parks, with several
species reportedly harvested only in parks. A survey of landowners in cities and suburbs located in
eastern Massachusetts indicated harvests on nearby conservation lands [
]. Research in Stockholm
documents mushroom foraging in that city [
], and the harvesting of berries (such as lingonberries
and blueberries) is very common, with other fruits, berries, and greens also widely observed, but less
common (Dahlberg pers. obs). In Berlin, the most frequently observed activity amongst visitors to two
parks was foraging, which encompassed 15 different species for food, teas, medicinal herbs, and pet
foods [44].
Public lands also function as de facto commons in developing countries, and are important in
providing access to species sought out by foragers. In South Africa, public spaces provided access to
fruits for residents from informal settlements [
]. Further, research from smaller cities in South Africa
Sustainability 2017,9, 1884 6 of 18
show that these public commonages provided access to other edible species, as well as medicines
and building materials [
]. As mentioned above, the urban woodlots and lakes of Bangalore
function as resource commons for foragers, as do the alleyways and other informal spaces of urban
slums [40].
Public lands, such as parks, are also important for additional reasons. Interviews with foragers in
Philadelphia and New York City suggest that parks facilitate group-oriented foraging practices and
associated learning through organised group educational hikes [
]. Foraging tours have become a
regular, if unauthorised, feature in several New York City parks, with individuals who have written
field guides or developed other educational materials leading guided walks of edible and useful
species. Recreational trails through suburban areas may also feature urban foraging opportunities,
spaces, and species [39].
2.3. Theme 3: The Nature of Urban Foraging Takes Many Forms in Terms of Actors, Frequencies, Dependencies,
Products Collected, Reasons, and Benefits
Diversity, multifunctionality, and adaptability to dynamic contexts are hallmarks of urban foragers
and foraging (Figure 1). The practices of seeking, harvesting, preparing, and consuming foraged
plant materials and fungi transcend social boundaries of all kinds
. In cities all around
the world, people who forage include the comparatively affluent and those with scarce financial
[4,13,20,27,39], different genders [13,37], and those from varied cultural backgrounds [13,29,39]
The length of residence in the city may affect foraging behaviour, where an individual forager may fall
anywhere on a temporal continuum from episodic and recent to permanent and multigenerational.
Thus, some urban foragers are intra- and international migrants recently settled in the city, while others
are nomadic peoples whose annual cycle of movement includes time spent in the city [
], and still
others are long-term or lifetime residents [
]. In many cities, children and adolescents are active
participants in foraging activities, either in peer groups foraging together or with adults, and they may
also be targeted as students by urban ecology or urban agricultural and food growing programmes in
formal educational institutions.
Regardless of time or place, urban foragers must adapt their practices to the intensively
dynamic social and ecological environments of cities. The novel ecological assemblages of urban
environments [
] include native and non-native species in often shifting spatial distributions as the
development of the built environment and management of designated greenspaces creates conditions
for some plant and fungal species to flourish, and others to become less abundant or locally eradicated.
These ecological dynamics are affected by social processes, along with the direct and indirect effects of
climate change on species prevalence and abundance [
]. In addition to the conversion of greenspace
to hardscape [
], remaining greenspaces may be privatised or reconceptualised as spaces for
non-consumptive recreation and nature watching, resulting in the closure of de facto commons where
foraging previously occurred unhindered [
]. Clark and Nicholas [
] surveyed 30 urban forestry
master plans from North America and found an underlying prioritisation of wildlife habitat over food
security that shapes urban forest planning in most cities.
As indicated in the previous sections, the reasons urban foragers engage in the practice are not
mutually exclusive, and indeed, a multifunctionality of reasons, species, and spaces is at the heart
of urban foraging’s value [
]. At any given time, individuals and communities of foragers may
obtain multiple benefits from foraging in urban environments, including resources for self-provision,
sale to provide supplemental income, ceremonial or spiritual observations, and a sense of peace
and well-being. In addition to this multifunctionality, at any one time, the relative magnitude and
importance of values also may change over individuals’ and households’ lifetimes [
] in response
to factors such as natural disasters and armed conflict [
]. Understanding the dynamics of urban
foraging’s values in relation to household livelihoods and external contexts is a fruitful area for
future research.
Sustainability 2017,9, 1884 7 of 18
2.4. Theme 4: There Is a Continuum of Dependency on Urban Foraging
Urban foraging can encompass a range of situations, from occasional recreational or cultural use,
to subsistence use to fulfil basic needs with important health and nutritional dimensions, to harvesting
for processing and sale for livelihood supplementation. In all cases, urban foraging contributes
important and even essential aspects of urban well-being.
Some urban foragers contribute value-additions to the products they extract, and transform the
products into items for sale. In Charleston, South Carolina, African American communities draw
on their cultural heritage to collect sweetgrass (Muhlenbergia sericea), longleaf pine needles (Pinus
palustris), black rush cuttings (Juncus roemerianus), and palmetto fronds (Sabal palmetto); which are
combined to make baskets, which contribute significantly to household and local economies in this
region, as well as maintain biocultural knowledge [
]. At the other end of the spectrum are contexts
such as that of Lake Arrie in southern Sweden, where there is an active angling club comprised of
local residents that engage in fishing for recreation and personal consumption [
]. Similar examples
for other products are easy to identify, such as the harvest of morel mushrooms (Morchella spp.) and
ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) in southern Indiana (US) for medicinal purposes [
], and a range of
different mushroom species collected by first and second generation Polish immigrants to Stockholm
as a central ingredient for traditional dishes [
]. Whilst these products are not the basis for household
food security, they play an important cultural role, as they contribute to a sense of place and urban
social capital.
Urban agriculture provides perhaps the best-known example of urban foraging, and has been
acknowledged in a number of global policy documents for its contribution to increase the resilience of
cities to shocks of various kinds. For example, Clark and Nicholas [
] identified 37 urban community
initiatives focussed on food tree plantations in Europe and North America. Several of these focussed
explicitly on plantations and harvest in low-income neighbourhoods, and demonstrated the importance
of plantations for urban foraging to address issues of urban food insecurity and malnutrition. In cities
that have dealt with a large influx of migrants from different cultural backgrounds, people from
diverse geographic origins have brought in plants from their own country and context, which has
increased the biodiversity and cultural diversity of cities such as Malmö in Sweden [
]. Recent
migrants in peri-urban areas seem to depend more on the harvest of wild natural resources available
in open areas or urban commons, while older residents in long settled parts of cities seem to invest
more in urban agriculture and a greater use of private spaces to which they may have established
networks and rights of access. This is most likely a function of the higher “wild” ecosystem resource
availability in peri-urban areas, as well as the increased tenure security of long-term residents in older
urban settlements [21], and policy interventions such as the privatisation of urban commons in some
cities [
]. The increasing greening of rooftops presents novel opportunities and great potential for
urban agriculture [6].
2.5. Theme 5: Urban Expansion and Transformation Continually Reshape Foraging Spaces
Foraging is not limited to immediate urban areas, or those spaces regularly associated with the
interior of cities; it also, and in some places predominantly, takes place in suburban and peri-urban
areas [
]. Across this urban spectrum, patterns of foraging appear to share many
similarities, and foragers living in the city or suburbs are often engaged in foraging in areas both inside
and outside the city. What spaces are considered city, suburb, and peri-urban areas is also rapidly
changing. Sprawling suburbs experiencing densification have laid claims to being city-centres in their
own right, and many formerly rural areas in both the developed and developing world can now be
described as peri-urban [
]. At the same time, formal and informal green spaces within existing
city boundaries are transformed by urban development. These urbanisation patterns reconfigure
the location, size, distribution, nature, management of, and access to the ecologies and green spaces
that support actual or potential foraging [
]. The current state of knowledge about these
dynamics, as well as other aspects of foraging referred to in this paper, is generally lacking. However,
Sustainability 2017,9, 1884 8 of 18
research from the US, southern Africa, Sweden, and India (including those studies highlighted above)
suggest important similarities and differences in the ways that urbanisation may influence foragers
and foraging. Research on the status of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) in rural areas experiencing
diverse types of urbanisation is generally lacking. A major exception is the work on sweetgrass basketry
among African Americans living in the South Lowcountry [
]. This work highlights similarities in the
situation of rural NTFP users with regard to stable NTFP supplies in other areas of the country [
including the extent to which changing patterns of land tenure, ownership, and management play in
shaping access to key NTFPs. This emerging research suggests that changes in ownership patterns,
land use, and land management strategies represent both challenges to, and opportunities for, the
continuation of foraging practices in urbanising areas [21,32,39,40,52,62,63].
That urban and peri-urban green areas are integral to urbanisation processes is illustrated by
research from South Africa, where foraging for personal consumption as well as for providing
additional income is of particular importance among recent migrants from the countryside to
urban areas [
]. The work of Petersen et al. [
] from Cape Town illustrates the extent to which
rural-to-urban migrants forage in parts of the urban periphery, collecting 250 species of plants.
However, the development processes that accompany urbanisation may negatively affect both recent
migrants and established residents. In Bangalore, India, lakes and woodlots in the sites of expanding
cities that have been historically treated as public commons are being transformed into both private
lands and public lands managed as parks [
]. In the process, perceptions about the appropriate uses
of these spaces and their plants are changing, with management strategies commonly prioritising
aesthetics and recreation over provisioning uses. Fences, security guards, and regular patrols, as well
as changes in landscaping design in some cases, accompany these shifts in management priorities.
This often results in lost access for foragers, as well as a potential change in species diversity that may
reduce the number of usable species. Moreover, the ecological degradation of habitats may result from
the biophysical processes often associated with urban expansion, such as increases of sewage in lakes,
the conversion of lakes and woodlots to housing, and road expansions removing street trees [65].
2.6. Theme 6: The Constant Reconfiguration of Urban Green Spaces Requires Adaptability and Mobility for the
Actors Involved
As previously described, urban landscapes, or citiscapes, are dynamic as cities expand and also
internally reconfigure land uses and landscape characteristics through time. These changes may be
largely planned and managed, such as via industrialisation and densification; unanticipated by urban
authorities and hence initially unmanaged, such as land invasions and waste dumping; or may be
the effect of both, such as in the case of gentrification. A reconfiguration of spaces results in changes
in land uses, access, and available species, to which urban foragers need to adapt. New spaces and
new sources of popular resources will become available, but the opposite will also occur, in that
established spaces and resources disappear or become unavailable to the public. This necessitates that
foragers are adaptive, innovative, and knowledgeable about alternative sites, species, and uses. Thus,
foragers need to be conscious and knowledgeable of the changing landscapes around them. We can
hypothesise that longer-term residents will have greater knowledge of spaces compared with new
urban migrants, who need time to accumulate the knowledge and experience of available foraging
areas, and the formal or informal rules of access and use. However, this assumption does not always
hold true, which illustrates how dynamic foraging is, and that one should be cautious in using the
concept of “traditional” when trying to understand practices and change. Schlesinger et al.’s [
] study
of six African cities found no difference between long-term residents and more recently urbanised
ones in the prevalence of use of a variety of locally procured resources such as firewood, wild fruit,
or medicinal plants. Similarly, Edelman [
] found that in Stockholm, urban foraging for mushrooms
was equally high, if not higher, in terms of species harvested, amounts, and in knowledge about how
to prepare and preserve them, amongst first and second generation migrants from Eastern European
countries compared with resident Swedes.
Sustainability 2017,9, 1884 9 of 18
The adaptability to changes in the location and abundance of, as well as access to, required
resources was evident in the case of sweetgrass resources in coastal South Carolina in the US [
First was the change in locations and the abundance of sweetgrass as harvesting areas were built upon.
Second was the change in access to sites, as formally public lands became privatised. The former
required that harvesters locate new harvesting sites, which usually meant they had to travel further
afield. The latter required that they evolve new social networks and negotiate new rules pertaining to
access rights.
More pervasive lifestyle and livelihood changes in the face of inexorable urbanisation are depicted
by communities living adjacent to an urban lake in Bengaluru, India [
]. What used to be
agro-pastoralist, rural communities were enveloped by the expanding city. Through the ensuing
decades, the location and abundance of key resources such as land, fodder for livestock, and fish
were in constant flux as spaces were claimed or abandoned for different purposes, including building
developments. At times, resource supply or access constraints undermined the very existence of
some households, resulting in out-migration or a total change in livelihood occupations. The need
for constant adaptation can at times result in conflicts between foraging and other types of use of
urban ecosystems. For instance, during the transformation of Bangalore’s lakes, fishers came into
conflict with urban naturalists, who felt that the harvest of fish decreased the fish stock in the lake, and
negatively impacted bird populations [49].
2.7. Theme 7: Most Cities Authorities Currently Frame Urban Foraging as an Illegal or Undesirable Activity
The regulation and governance of urban foraging in different countries and towns has not been
well explored. Whilst we are aware of a range of systems across specific settings, it is most common
for municipal regulations to have either no explicit mention of foraging, or some form of restriction or
prohibition applied to public or common lands. Private lands are usually exempt from such formal
harvesting-related restrictions, although “standard” trespass laws often apply, which demand that
foragers obtain permission from the landowner to access private sites. However, as with many aspects
of urban foraging, the picture of any given town or city is not always clear, not least because of the
multiple levels of government that purportedly have some jurisdiction. These levels include local
municipal authorities, up to country, state, and even national levels, as well as the different agencies
that may deal with separate but often overlapping interests (such as conservation, parks, agriculture,
land use planning, environment, health, and safety) and thus often have divergent and sometimes
contradictory goals.
McLain et al. [
] surmise that in the US, foraging is largely a prohibited activity on public lands in
cities and suburbs. Interviews with park managers suggested that urban foraging was seen as a largely
unwanted activity from a policy perspective as it “damages” park resources, although some managers
recognise the benefits of environmental awareness and ecological knowledge that can come from such
more direct interactions with the landscapes and flora in the parks. An exception was Seattle, where
policymakers recently embraced some aspects of foraging, including a revision of the policy language
in the city’s urban forest stewardship plan, and efforts are underway to develop a new food forest
for foragers [
]. In Stockholm (Sweden), a brief survey among some of the officials in charge of the
management of the urban parks revealed a surprising lack of certainty in terms of what was allowed or
not [Dahlberg pers. comm.]. In rural areas, the Swedish right of public access [
] makes it quite clear
what can be harvested and not, but how this regulatory policy should be applied in cities has not been
explored. Some managers participating in the survey were positive towards the foraging of fruit in
public places, and one had organised the planting of apple and cherry trees for this purpose. However,
at the same time, others referred to official statements that prohibited any harvesting from planted
vegetation, as well as any wild vegetation such as flowers growing on planned urban land. Around
the world, it is not an uncommon sight in parks to see signboards prohibiting picking or foraging.
The situation regarding foraging from more informal public lands, such as servitudes and
undeveloped or remnant lands and derelict private lands is even less clear. Many such areas are
Sustainability 2017,9, 1884 10 of 18
not actively managed or regulated, and hence city authorities have no or only limited knowledge
of the activities taking place in these types of spaces. This uncertainty, however, makes foragers
vulnerable to arbitrarily imposed restrictions (such as evictions of urban cultivators) that may lack any
real regulatory basis.
It is likely that the regulations pertaining to foraging on private lands will be clearer if the owner of
the land occupies it, or is frequently seen on the land to oversee any agreed harvesting or access rights.
However, private lands that appear to be un- or little used, and thus take on a visage of abandonment,
may become harvesting sites for neighbours or foragers from further afield. This has the potential for
conflict when there is no uniform understanding of who owns or is responsible for specific parcels of
land, or where private property owners occupy or claim jurisdiction over neighbouring public lands
or rights of way, such as bulrush harvesters being harassed by landowners for their harvests in tidal
wetlands that are in publicly owned areas, but are often perceived of as private property by adjacent
residents [32,39].
The acceptance of foraging on lands on the urban periphery is equally complex, and depends
upon who owns the land and what activities are tolerated there. There are many cities around the world
where some peri-urban lands and forests are publicly owned and are available for foraging, recreational,
and even agricultural activities. In South Africa, these are referred to as urban commonages, and
the foraging of firewood, medicinal plants, and wild foods is a common activity that is tolerated or
encouraged as an important safety net for the urban poor [
]. However, the same activities are
prohibited within the city limits. Although foraging is permitted on most municipal commonages in
South Africa, there can be conflicts amongst different users, as not all land use activities are compatible
with one another, and there may also be attempts at exclusion of the poor by the wealthy who seek to
reserve commonage for grazing of their livestock [69,70].
The harvesting of a variety of natural resources within urban landscapes is frequently disallowed
by local bylaws [
]. The origins of such bylaws are typically hard to discern, but appear to be vested
in fears relating to one or more of the following: (i) nature/biodiversity loss due to potentially
damaging harvesting practices; (ii) unsightly damage to city assets or green infrastructure planted
and maintained by the city; and (iii) public health. Each of these can be examined in both relative
and absolute terms. On a relative basis, these concerns can generally be diluted, because other land
transformation and land use pressures have far greater impacts on species and green spaces than
urban foraging does. The fragmentation or diminishment of formal and informal green spaces for
infrastructure development or waste dumping are major pressures in most cities of the world [
compared with which urban foraging is a relatively benign activity. Urban densification processes also
take their toll on the extent of urban green space [5,72].
With respect to biodiversity loss in urban settings as a consequence of urban foraging, we are
not aware of any information that explicitly interrogates this question, or any study reporting on
urban respondents mentioning or lamenting such. The impacts of harvesting of natural resources in
less transformed, rural, or protected landscapes are the subject of much research globally [
]. Those
results are extremely varied, which reflects on the diversity of climates, landscapes, species, plant
parts, and governance systems under which harvesting occurs [
]. The variability is also partially
due to the different time-scale and research frameworks employed [
]. What is clear is that for rural
and urban areas both, management guidelines need to be context-specific and designed in situ with all
relevant stakeholders.
A second observation from our own studies and the limited literature is the common reference
to significant levels of local ecological knowledge amongst urban foragers [
]. Whether they are
foragers because of their knowledge of the local ecology and species or vice versa, a high level of local
knowledge is typically regarded as a positive attribute in contributing to the ecological sustainability
of resource harvesting [
]. Additionally, urban foraging may be undertaken in groups [
], which
promotes the dissemination of such knowledge within the group and to newcomers. Gopal and
Nagendra [
] describe the value of urban trees in providing shade and as places for social learning
Sustainability 2017,9, 1884 11 of 18
and knowledge sharing about a range of topics in the slums of Bangalore, which they postulate
includes the uses and locations of locally harvested plants.
Any reduction in green spaces and species as a result of harvesting would potentially be a cause
for concern to municipal authorities, because it can be perceived as a loss of investment. If local
authorities have planted and/or maintained green areas or species that are subsequently harvested,
it potentially represents some waste of the financial and human capital that went into establishing
and maintaining those elements. However, one must also note that some resources are seasonal (e.g.,
fruits, mushrooms, flowers, seed pods), and some species can regrow after harvesting or re-establish
annually from seed. The extent of removal from urban foraging is largely unknown, but in our
experience, it is relatively small. However, authorities are likely to fear that if they allow a few
people to forage, then others will follow suit, thereby increasing the likelihood of real damage to
the resource. On the other hand, if urban foraging was permitted, and even encouraged, authorities
could actively plan for it, as well as any possible increases in magnitude, by planting species (and
more of them) used by local residents. For example, Grabbatin et al. [
] reported how natural
sweetgrass stocks in coastal South Carolina declined due to coastal development, but subsequently
were buoyed by the local authorities planting it along roadsides as an ornamental. In Grahamstown,
South Africa, the municipality increasingly planted wild plum (Harpephyllum caffrum) along streets,
thereby providing fruits for children and birds. Green spaces and street plantings are already provided,
and thus it would just require reconsideration of the species, and in some instances, the spaces [
The planting of trees for urban firewood supplies is not uncommon in cities in sub-Saharan Africa
such as Kigali, the rapidly growing capital of Rwanda [78].
Among planners and managers, and perhaps others, there are concerns around potential ill health
effects associated with the growing, harvesting, and consumption of wild foods in urban settings.
At the local scale, planners are concerned that some useful species may drop fruits, branches, or thorns
that could harm pedestrians. For example, McLain et al. [
] describe how large-fruited species, such
as apples, are prohibited as street trees in Seattle because of the fear of pedestrian injuries. At a
more significant scale, Weeks et al. [
] posit that the most important concern is the heavy metal
contamination of foods from urban pollution, especially from vehicular traffic emissions (something
that is also likely to affect food grown in private gardens); however, this may be limited through the
washing of harvested produce [
]. Another issue of concern might be residual traces of chemical
poisons sprayed during vegetation management. These potential problems warrant investigation to
dispel, mitigate, or affirm such concerns. Results of such research will be most meaningful if placed in
the context of fresh produce available from other sources. However, in a future context, obviously the
best option would be to drastically cut all forms of dangerous pollutions and vehicular emissions in
urban areas.
3. Conclusions and Future Directions
Our thought piece is an examination of themes emerging from our own case studies and material
from India, South Africa, Sweden, and the USA, supported with reference to other urban centres
around the world. It demonstrates that urban foraging is a widespread practice that exhibits many
similar characteristics across large-to-small cities in the developed and developing world. At the same
time, urban foraging is characterised by social and ecological diversity in terms of who forages, their
reasons for doing so, the benefits they receive, the knowledge required, the rights and governance
systems, as well as the species and products harvested, the spaces used, and how they are managed.
Shifting biological and social access notwithstanding, urban foraging and the animal and plant
materials and fungi obtained fulfil multiple functions for diverse individuals and communities. Urban
foraging, inter alia:
Provides frequently used subsistence resources [37,39,42],
Acts as a coping strategy or safety net during times of misfortune, such as natural disasters or
economic losses [81],
Sustainability 2017,9, 1884 12 of 18
Offers savings of scarce cash income [20,21],
Contributes to food and health security and sovereignty [4,11,21,37],
Creates and sustains connections to nature and place [11,62,66], and
Supports identities and cultures [13,39,42,46,56,82].
Forager identities span social, cultural, and economic groups, and the benefits that foraging
provides for them are many and often simultaneous. The relative importance of specific benefits may
change through time in response to individual and collective circumstances, such as access to green
spaces and species, the availability of employment or events including natural disasters, and armed
conflict (Figure 2).
In any given city, dozens to hundreds of species appear to be harvested, including native and
non-native species. These species are foraged across urban, suburban, and peri-urban landscapes;
in other words, essentially any place where useful plant, fungi and animal resources can be found,
including common, state, and privately owned lands. Foraging is a dispersed practice, with individual
foragers sometimes travelling to multiple locations to obtain the species and experiences they seek.
This diversity of systems, spaces, and species potentially counters the assumption voiced by Kujawska
& Łuczaj [
] that “it is well acknowledged that in urban centers people tend to use fewer wild edible
plants than in rural areas due to limited access to such resources. The contemporary fashion for wild
edible plants among city dwellers is usually limited to easily identifiable and readily available species
. . .
], with some specialized exceptions [
. . .
]”. In contrast, we see little evidence of “specialised
exceptions”, and more of unexplored ubiquity.
In addition to this diversity, urban foraging is socially, spatially, and temporally dynamic
(Figure 2). Factors contributing to these dynamics include the intra- and international migration
of humans and other species, as well as the constant reconfiguration of urban landscapes through
processes including, but not limited to, development, densification, gentrification, privatisation,
and abandonment. Foragers and foraging must, and do, adapt to these changing contexts. Often, they
do so in ways that defy simple assumptions about circumstances such as economic status or length of
tenure in place. The multigenerational and increasingly multiethnic nature of cities further emphasises
the word diversity. Urban foraging does not mean the same to all groups, but does urban design and
policy take sufficient cognisance of this? Is design sufficiently responsive to changing demographic
profiles within cities, including the perceptions and needs of immigrants?
Despite the benefits to urban residents, most city authorities with whom we have interacted
or learnt about through other research explicitly or implicitly prohibit urban foraging, although
rules on the books and their interpretation may be ambiguous or rarely enforced. Public lands and
private or institutional lands that function as de facto commons often are particularly important in
terms of providing access to useful plant materials, fungi, and other resources. However, policy
and management priorities for urban greenspaces generally favour recreational and aesthetic values.
In urbanising environments, this may result in the closure of commons where foraging has previously
taken place.
Although loss of access to foraging locations and resources frequently is observed, the novel
ecologies of urban environments can provide forageable species not previously present in an area,
and there are instances in which novel forms of negotiated access for foraging arise. Further, some
cities have an evidenced interest in adopting policies to accommodate foraging (e.g., Seattle, WA,
US), and there are civic efforts to develop food forests in communities in North America and Europe,
sometimes in partnership with city governments.
Urban greenspace managers and policymakers may face aesthetic, ecological, and public health
concerns as they consider whether to accommodate foraging in cities. Recent literature suggests that
the risks of exposure to contaminants from consuming foraged plant materials and fungi from urban
spaces may be minimal to non-existent for selected species and locations, although further research is
warranted [
]. While there is a lack of data on the ecological effects of foraging on urban biodiversity
and local species abundance, until such a time such data are available, research conducted in rural
Sustainability 2017,9, 1884 13 of 18
environments may be indicative of likely outcomes. This scholarship suggests that the outcomes
for species populations are conditioned by the particulars of harvest. Further, foragers’ ecological
knowledge and the benefits they derive from urban nature may act as incentives to steward the species
and landscapes they use. Finally, the relative impact of foraging is dwarfed by land use and land cover
changes that are part of urbanisation processes.
Urban nature is a source of ecosystem services that benefit city economies and residents’
well-being. To date, most of the scholarship and policy research on urban ecosystem services has
focused on regulating and supporting functions, an emphasis that results in undervaluing urban
nature’s full contributions to human well-being. Future research to rectify this shortfall will address
basic aspects of foraging, as well as the contexts within which it occurs. These contexts include,
but are not limited to: potential exposure to contaminants from the consumption of urban foraged
plants and fungi, and best practices for mitigating any risks; factors influencing the sustainability of
urban foraging; opportunities to design urban greenspaces and governance structures to enhance
provisioning and cultural ecosystem services from foraging, and aspects of environmental justice in
terms of who has access to what, and how urbanisation dynamics may affect the equity related to
greenspaces and the resources (material and immaterial) that they contain (Figure 2).
Beyond the practical ways foraging research can contribute to understandings of ecosystem
services, research specifically on urban foraging remains in its early stages. The synthesis presented
here suggests key ways that future empirical research can address important questions about this
ubiquitous practice. Figure 2depicts the social-ecological systems in which foraging operates,
highlighting the ways we see urban ecological contexts—or cities as novel biomes [
]—as shaped first
by social-economic contexts, and secondarily by bio-physical context (which are also deliberately or
unconsciously modified by the social-economic dynamics). Within the social and ecological settings at
the local scale, foraging is comprised of and influenced by diverse actors and the specific practices
they undertake in relation to an array of sites and species. Together, the interactions between people
and species and the practices and sites that link the two characterise urban foraging systems.
As argued throughout this paper, urban foraging systems are dynamic and influenced by a wide
variety of drivers of change, which shape urban foraging systems at multiple scales and levels of
interaction. To foster a better understanding of dynamic urban foraging systems around the planet, we
encourage scholars to consider the characteristics of individual and group foraging practices and the
species involved, including the changing political, economic, and ecological changes that shape these
practices. Future research should examine past and current motivations for foraging by individuals and
communities; how foraged materials have contributed to and underpin identities, cultures, and health
and well-being; and the ways that foragers negotiate access to the species they forage and the locations
that support these species (Figure 2).
Paying attention to the interactions between people, species, spaces, and governance systems
involved, including the variation in responses by foragers and the flexibility of their practices, can
reveal the dynamism of urban foraging. Here, changes in conditions of ecological availability and social
access in relation to issues of equity may be critical, as well as the evolving pathways of knowledge
transmission that perpetuate foraging. Critically, research should consider what past, current, and new
steps foragers must take to adapt their practices to new locations and species. Further, scholars will
need to be attentive to the spaces that are used by foragers, and why these spaces in particular support
the harvest of particular species and even distinctive uses, where others do not. Particular emphasis
on differences in the seasonal mix of species as well as differences in species distribution across a city
and its greenspace types may be critical to these endeavors (Figure 2).
As a complex and dynamic activity that contributes to urban livability, individual well-being,
and socio-environmental equity in many ways, there are many questions that remain unanswered
(Figure 2). Additionally, there is the need for these questions to be examined in a wide variety of
geographic, social, and ecological settings to enable the meta-analysis of patterns and processes.
The complexity of urban foraging also cries out for (1) the deployment of a wider range of existing
Sustainability 2017,9, 1884 14 of 18
and new methodological approaches, including actor analysis, institutional analysis, and GIS; (2) the
linking of research with action via transdisciplinarity, social learning, and citizen science; (3) linking
research with education through involving of learners and incorporating urban foraging information
into formal educational curricula and informal courses and activities of interested non-governmental
and community-based organisations; and (4) a higher degree of involvement of city planners and
managers at different levels in research endeavours.
Sustainability 2017, 9, 1884 14 of 18
non-governmental and community-based organisations; and (4) a higher degree of involvement of
city planners and managers at different levels in research endeavours.
Figure 2. The urban foraging system shaped by the local biophysical and social-economic contexts,
which in turn are shaped by external drivers of change in time.
Assessing the full range and values of the ecosystem services provided by urban nature will
require understanding urban foraging, including foraged species and their uses, and foragers and
their practices, beliefs and knowledge. The formulation of policy, design, and management
strategies in support of the provisioning and cultural ecosystem services provided by urban foraging
will benefit from understanding the common characteristics of foraging in cities worldwide, but will
also require comprehension of the specific context in which they are to be implemented.
Acknowledgments: The contribution by A.D. was supported by The Swedish Research Council Formas. H.N.’s
contribution was funded by a research grant from Azim Premji University. C.S.’s contribution was sponsored
by the South African Research Chairs Initiative of the Dept of Science and Technology and the National
Research Foundation of South Africa (any opinion, finding, conclusion or recommendation expressed in this
material is that of the authors and the N.R.F. does not accept any liability in this regard). We are grateful for
comments on an earlier draft of this paper by Paul Gobster and we additionally appreciated the constructive
comments from three anonymous reviewers.
Figure 2.
The urban foraging system shaped by the local biophysical and social-economic contexts,
which in turn are shaped by external drivers of change in time.
Assessing the full range and values of the ecosystem services provided by urban nature will
require understanding urban foraging, including foraged species and their uses, and foragers and
their practices, beliefs and knowledge. The formulation of policy, design, and management strategies
in support of the provisioning and cultural ecosystem services provided by urban foraging will benefit
from understanding the common characteristics of foraging in cities worldwide, but will also require
comprehension of the specific context in which they are to be implemented.
Sustainability 2017,9, 1884 15 of 18
The contribution by A.D. was supported by The Swedish Research Council Formas. H.N.’s
contribution was funded by a research grant from Azim Premji University. C.S.’s contribution was sponsored by
the South African Research Chairs Initiative of the Dept of Science and Technology and the National Research
Foundation of South Africa (any opinion, finding, conclusion or recommendation expressed in this material is
that of the authors and the N.R.F. does not accept any liability in this regard). We are grateful for comments on an
earlier draft of this paper by Paul Gobster and we additionally appreciated the constructive comments from three
anonymous reviewers.
Author Contributions: C.S. and P.H. conceived of the paper and all authors then contributed to writing it.
Conflicts of Interest: The authors declare that there are no conflicts of interest.
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article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution
(CC BY) license (
... Thirdly, foraging improves the connection with nature in densely built areas where such connection is often lacking (McLain et al. 2014). Additionally, foragers often possess sophisticated local ecological knowledge (Chipeniuk 1998) and demonstrate both a stronger sense of belonging and enhanced well-being compared to non-foragers (Shackleton et al. 2017). Motivations for engaging in foraging and the derived benefits are diverse. ...
... Despite a few exceptions in the Global North like the Forestry Management Plan for Seattle (Hurley and Emery 2018) and the ''edible city'' of Andernach, Germany (Kosack 2016), foraging itself is largely overlooked in urban planning. When it is recognised, it is often discouraged or considered illegal (McLain et al. 2014;Shackleton et al. 2017). Reasons for dismissal by planning authorities include risks to public health, the acceleration of biodiversity loss due to over-harvesting and damage to vegetation (Shackleton et al. 2017). ...
... When it is recognised, it is often discouraged or considered illegal (McLain et al. 2014;Shackleton et al. 2017). Reasons for dismissal by planning authorities include risks to public health, the acceleration of biodiversity loss due to over-harvesting and damage to vegetation (Shackleton et al. 2017). Yet foraging can foster a sense of place-making, spontaneous co-management (McLain et al. 2014) and deepen sense of ownership (Hurley et al. 2015), thus promoting bottom-up collective greenspace management that provides economic gains for municipalities (Lafontaine-Messier et al. 2016). ...
Urban foraging, i.e., the gathering of wild edible plants, plays a key role in nature connection within cities. Its integration in planning could contribute to the conservation of urban biodiversity. However, we have little understanding of the interactions between the motivations for and barriers to foraging, and the role of legislation, especially in biodiversity hotspots. Through an online questionnaire and policy review, we explored the practice of urban foraging in Recife, Brazil, across social, spatial and regulatory dimensions. We found that most non-foragers would forage if pollution risks were addressed and knowledge was improved. Foragers collected up to 31 species, none of which are threatened. By integrating the social, spatial and regulatory dimensions of the practice, we highlighted the importance of the local context for targeting foraging incentives. In all, regulation had little impact on where the practice is carried out, and foraging seemed to have little negative impact on biodiversity, as no threatened species were collected and foragers were conscious of their impact. This knowledge can contribute to better integrate the practice of foraging within legislation and develop forager-led greenspace planning and management. In biodiversity hotspots threatened by urban expansion, foraging can contribute to slowing down the biodiversity crisis and improve urban residents' contact with biodiversity.
... In addition to the nature identity aspect, previous studies also present aspects of social approval of food foraging as a behavior, or of food foragers in their community. It has been reported that responsible collection behavior is a major contributor to acceptance (Shackleton et al., 2017). This includes careful foraging behavior, respecting conservation areas and other areas where foraging is forbidden, and being mindful not to harvest and collect species that are protected (Schunko et al., 2021). ...
... There are individual and societal benefits associated with food foraging. The personal benefits of the activity include the ability to obtain resources for self-provision, an opportunity to sell foraged food as a supplemental income, to participate in ceremonial or spiritual observations, and to improve health and well-being (Shackleton et al., 2017). Other major personal benefits associated with food foraging are access to free food used as main meals, snacks, spices, and medicine. ...
... It has been reported that food foraging allows access to and dietary diversity of nutritious food across all strata, but is particularly important for low-income households, especially in terms of food security (Bunge et al., 2019;Dhyani and Kadaverugu, 2020). Shackleton et al. (2017) stress that beyond the range of material goods, there are intangible benefits, such as the understanding of goods and services provided by urban plants, animals, soils, and waters, that serve individuals and society alike. These include the sharing of environmental knowledge, practicing stewardship of the earth, and building and strengthening community, culture, and identity. ...
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Introduction This study is dedicated to urban foraging and explores key factors that determine consumer willingness to try foraged food, willingness to spend time and effort, accept risk as well as make a commitment towards food foraging. Methods A conceptual model is presented where general perceptions of nature, food foraging, and Covid-19 influence 3 specific attitudes about food foraging which drive 4 behavioural intentions towards food foraging. The model was tested using partial least square structural equation modelling. Results Results emphasize that the strongest driver of willingness to try are the approval of responsible food foraging activities and the individual benefits of food foraging. For the willingness to spend extra time and effort, all the predictors have some impact. In terms of willingness to accept risk, approval of responsible food foraging activities and the societal benefits of food foraging are influential. For commitment to food foraging, the individual and societal benefits are the most important key drivers. Discussion These findings are of relevance to marketing managers in the food industry and gastronomy, as well as municipalities, landscape designers, and horticultural businesses.
... Although urban foraging is a global phenomenon, in most cities and towns, the volume of wild foods available to foragers is likely to be fairly limited and not easily accessible to the population at large (see, e.g. McLain et al., 2014;Shackleton et al., 2017). However, Sneyd (2015Sneyd ( , 2016 shows that in Cameroon, a wide variety of forest foods are actually collected outside urban areas and transported and sold in urban markets by informal traders. ...
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Rapid urbanisation and food system transformation in Africa have been accompanied by growing food insecurity, reduced dietary diversity, and an epidemic of non-communicable disease. While the contribution of wild and indigenous foods (WIF) to the quality of rural household diets has been the subject of longstanding attention, research on their consumption and role among urban households is more recent. This paper provides a case study of the consumption of WIF in the urban corridor of northern Namibia with close ties to the surrounding rural agricultural areas. The research methodology involved a representative household food security survey of 851 urban households using tablets and ODK Collect. The key methods for data analysis included descriptive statistics and ordinal logistic regression. The main findings of the analysis included the fact that WIFs are consumed by most households, but with markedly different frequencies. Frequent consumers of WIF are most likely to be female-centred households, in the lowest income quintiles, and with the highest lived poverty. Frequent consumption is not related to food security, but is higher in households with low dietary diversity. Infrequent or occasional consumers tend to be higher-income households with low lived poverty and higher levels of food security. We conclude that frequent consumers use WIF to diversify their diets and that occasional consumers eat WIF more for reasons of cultural preference and taste than necessity. Recommendations for future research include the nature of the supply chains that bring WIF to urban consumers, intra-household consumption of WIF, and in-depth interviews about the reasons for household consumption of WIF and preferences for certain types of wild food.
... In the present study, we conducted a systematic literature review to determine trends in urban ecological research conducted in Africa. Relative to other regions such as Asia, Europe and North America (Forman, 2016;Lin & Grimm, 2015;Magle et al., 2012;Wu et al., 2014), there have been few attempts aimed at synthesizing the state of knowledge in African urban ecology (e.g., Cilliers et al., 2013;Shackleton et al., 2017;Lindley et al., 2018;du Toit et al., 2018). Our aims were to (i) analyze the current status of research effort on urban ecology in this continent, (ii) identify research gaps (geographic, taxonomic and ecological) and (iii) provide recommendations and insights on future prospects. ...
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Urbanization is an extreme human activity and is expanding worldwide, consequently increasing the attention of scientists across research areas of urban ecology. Recent studies have warned of the lack of information from certain regions, particularly Africa, which is rapidly urbanizing. Thus, we did a detailed literature search to determine the state of knowledge in African urban ecology in the last century. We found 795 relevant papers from where data were collected and tested to understand geographic and ecological mismatches in research effort, allowing us to identify important knowledge gaps (e.g., taxonomy and scientific fields). We also tested the effect of current and future urbanization intensity, human population density, size and conservation status of ecoregions and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on research effort. Our results suggest a low turnout of papers and a dearth of knowledge about African urban ecology. Studies were conducted in 72% of African countries, with South Africa alone accounting for almost 40% of all published papers. The studies were either conducted at the city (55%) or local/country (34%) level, suggesting the lack of transnational research collaboration. Interestingly , only country GDP and the size and conservation status of ecoregions significantly predicted the number of publications, suggesting that research effort is driven by economic reasons and the relevance of conservation in African urban ecology. We need to account for these biases to advance our understanding of the impacts of urbanization on African biodiversity.
... Urban foraging is the activity of citizens collecting biological resources from the urban environment (Shackleton, Blair, et al., 2017), that are not cultivated or farmed commercially. These resources include wild foods (Hurley et al., 2015), fuelwood, craft materials and medicinal herbs (Poe et al., 2013), and may provide subsistence as well as cash income (Shackleton, Hurley, et al., 2017). In urban households, foraged products may help improve food security (Chakona & Shackleton, 2019), alleviate poverty (Schlesinger et al., 2015) and buffer against adversities (Dalu & Shackleton, 2018). ...
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Abstract Urban foraging is a global informal phenomenon which has been investigated in the Global North more than other parts of the world. Characterising the nature of urban foraging in the Global South is imperative given the rapid urbanisation and sustainable development priorities in the region. In this study, we interviewed 80 urban foragers in four cities in the eastern coastal region of South Africa, with an aim to understand the nature of urban foraging in a developing nation context. We asked foragers about their initiation to and motivations for foraging, their logistics, yields and associated activities, descriptions of their foraging grounds, and if and how they had changed, and what they envisage as an ideal future for foraging. Many foragers started foraging in their childhood, in the company of friends and family, and, as in the Global North, regarded it as a cultural and recreational activity. Foraging was mostly done within a 5‐km radius of home, on a weekly or fortnightly basis, and very few foragers processed or sold their foraged products. Unlike the Global North, formal green spaces were not foraged in, and were perceived to be poorly provisioned in urban planning. Forests and roadsides were equally used by the foragers, and very few had been discouraged from foraging. Most foragers were enthusiastic about the possibility of more people foraging, having designated spaces for foraging, and foraging‐based businesses such as processed products and ecotourism. We recommend that policymakers and land managers recognise and encourage foraging as a potentially sustainable use for stewardship of urban green spaces. To this end, we list the main wild edible fruit species used by foragers in the area, which could be planted in public spaces. We also suggest harnessing foragers' knowledge of useful species and spaces to develop green spaces and foraging‐based supply chains. Read the free Plain Language Summary for this article on the Journal blog.
... It has been argued as unlikely that cemeteries could be used for food production (McClymont and Sinnett 2021), although the authors observed a small community orchard in one of the burial places studied. Urban fruit tree mappings revealed several fruit trees, edible herbs or mushrooms for foraging at cemeteries (Mundraub, 2022;Schlecht and Säumel 2015;Buchter-Weisbrodt, 2009 Shackleton et al., 2017) as dogs and their contamination, a major concern of foragers, are not permitted (Landor-Yamagata et al., 2018;Brandner and Schunko 2022). Overexploitation of these resources can, however, also threaten vegetation and wildlife, as in the case of the use of orchid tubers from Turkish cemeteries for culinary purposes . ...
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Cemeteries are often seen as monofunctional spaces for burial and mourning and, within the dynamically changing urban fabric, as a planning conundrum. Long periods of stability have also turned these untouched and hidden places into refugia for nature and wildlife. In booming and dense cities with high land use pressures and housing shortages, in particular, as the amount of burial ground needed per citizen decreases and burial cultures change, the cemetery has become a contested nature, as a simultaneous space of emotion, commerce and community. We revisited the diversity and ontogenesis of cemeteries, and the interactions with neighboring uses of the urban matrix. Our review demonstrates a wide range of different ecosystem services of urban cemeteries, beyond potential as hotspots of culture and biodiversity. We highlight their multifunctional character and the need for a holistic and trans-disciplinary evaluation using multistakeholder approaches to further develop cemeteries as a crucial element of sustainable urban landscapes.
... For example, the expansion of protected areas provides some opportunities for conservation, but ecosystems in these areas may be degraded and wild populations of fruit and vegetable species within the landscape may decline (Pringle 2017). While cities can be hubs for new crop diversity, urban expansion is also a driver of biodiversity loss, because urban planning commonly does not consider crop biodiversity (Shackleton et al. 2017). Global increases in crop diversification with limited numbers of new crops may also lead to less use, and therefore a decline in the abundance and richness of local fruit and vegetable crops as diets tend towards becoming more homogenous globally (Khoury et al. 2014). ...
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Fruit and vegetable species and varieties, their wild relatives, and pollinators and other associated organisms underpin diverse food production systems and contribute to worldwide health and nutrition. This biodiversity, however, is threatened, remains poorly conserved, and is largely undocumented. Its loss leads to a narrowing of new food options, reduced variation for breeding, and yield gaps due to pollinator decline. This constrains the supply of climate-resilient and nutritious foods to the global human population and limits long-term progress towards the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and any future goals set thereafter. It will require that awareness be raised globally to safeguard and sustainably use fruit and vegetable biodiversity and that a global rescue plan for reducing and reversing the decline in this biodiversity be devised. Success will depend on a global partnership of custodians and users of fruit and vegetable biodiversity and requires an investment of at least 250 million USD over ten years.
... La producción de alimentos cultivados, recolectados y otros bienes y servicios se encuentran en una situación crítica que afecta directamente a las comunidades más vulnerables, reflejo de la salud del planeta, la subsistencia y el cambio climático (Jansen et al., 2020;Steel et al., 2022). Los sistemas socioambientales que sostienen los productos forestales no maderables (PFNM) y su conexión con los bosques nativos, es esencial para la subsistencia de millones de personas que viven y dependen de una amplia diversidad de ecosistemas, paisajes, culturas y climas (Sheppard et al., 2020;Shackleton et al., 2017). ...
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Se presenta un estudio sobre recolección de productos forestales no maderables (PFNM) en la población de El Escobillo, Veracruz, México, y zonas adyacentes del Parque Nacional Cofre de Perote (PNCP). Se registraron 70 especies (45 plantas vasculares, dos briofitas y 23 hongos), clasificadas en siete categorías de uso, destacando el comestible (31) con el mayor ingreso por venta, seguido por el medicinal (21), el de leña y el ceremonial por volumen recolectado para autoconsumo y el artesanal para la venta. De acuerdo con la normatividad mexicana (NOM-059-SEMARNAT-2010), en el área de estudio el hongo pananaca, los hongos cochinitos y la palma chimale se encuentran en la categoría de amenazada y el hongo de perfume está sujeto a protección especial. Se identificaron 33 sitios de recolección ubicados en tres zonas del PNCP y cinco sistemas de manejo. El sistema "montaña" representa la mayoría de los sitios de recolección y especies silvestres, principalmente hongos para venta y autoconsumo. La recolección de PFNM representa un ingreso (sin considerar los egresos) estimado en MXN 943 624 anuales. Es necesario promover la participación de los habitantes del PNCP, como custodios y manejadores de los PFNM en estrategias sustentables, con especial énfasis en la integración de sus conocimientos y formas de organización, así como considerar la colaboración con las organizaciones de la sociedad civil, gobierno, empresas y academia.
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Funding and financing challenges remain a persistent barrier to implementing nature‐based solutions that enhance ecosystem services, facilitate adaptation to climate change, and combat environmental stressors in cities. In the absence of adequate public financial resources, private funds are often expected to fill the gap. But market‐driven, nature‐based solutions can contribute to an inequitable distribution of urban ecosystem services by focusing on net benefits provided by nature. To help foster sustainable development and ensure that nature‐based solutions reach diverse and historically marginalized populations and communities, this scoping review explores the ecosystem services provided by nature‐based solutions and the payment mechanisms that produce and maintain them, focusing on literature on the United States. Findings suggest that the net benefits provided by nature‐based solutions and the available payment mechanisms vary based on the solution utilized (e.g., urban trees, parks, community gardens). Further, the distribution of benefits from nature‐based solutions is influenced by local historical, cultural, political, economic, and environmental contexts, the voices included in decision‐making, and the payment mechanisms used. Inspired by social equity principles, we present a framework for ecosystem service provision that is sensitive to market‐driven funding, financing, and partnerships. Practitioners can use this framework to assess whether payment schemes work in tandem with place (the local context) and process (governance and planning approaches) to ameliorate or exacerbate disparities in nature‐based solutions and the benefits they provide to people.
Since the occurrence of COVID-19 and food price inflation, alternative forms of food procurement increased in popularity. The present study is dedicated to urban foraging and aims to explore key factors driving food foraging behavior in the U.S. Two specific foraging behaviors, namely “leaving food behind” or “taking it all”, have been investigated in a gardening and non-gardening location. Leaving food behind is crucial to sustainable foraging practices, as it allows plants and ecosystems to recover and promotes fairness in foraging communities. Data was procured from an online consumer survey and analyzed using SmartPLS 4, which allowed the use of partial least square structural equation modeling (PLS-SEM). PLS-SEM is particularly suitable for complex exploratory studies as it does not require distributional assumptions. Results indicate that nature and food attitudes predict attitudes toward urban foraging. Foraging attitudes, such as food foraging is challenging and food foraging benefits people and the planet, which are the most important drivers for taking or leaving behaviors in both types of locations. These findings are of relevance to managers in municipalities, landscape designers, horticultural businesses, and other stakeholders who create, shape, and govern landscapes used for food foraging.
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Recently published green infrastructure, nature-based solutions, and ecosystem disservices (ED) literature have focused primarily on the supply of urban regulating and cultural ecosystem services (ES). Other literature on urban and peri-urban agriculture has mostly studied the role of localized, intensive agricultural practices in providing food to inhabitants. The aim of this review is to raise awareness and stress the knowledge gap on the importance of urban provisioning ES, particularly when implementing an edible green infrastructure (EGI) approach as it can offer improved resilience and quality of life in cities. We compiled and systematically analyzed studies on urban ES and ED related to a number of EGI typologies. Our systematic review of the relevant literature via an EGI framework, identified more than 80 peer-reviewed publications that focused on ES and food production in urban areas. An EGI approach can contribute socially, economically, and environmentally to urban sustainability and food security. However, such benefits must be weighed against ED trade-offs, including: potential health risks caused by human exposure to heavy metals and organic chemical contaminants often present in urban surroundings. We conclude with recommendations and guidelines for incorporating EGI into urban planning and design, and discuss novel areas for future research.
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The concept of biocultural diversity, originally used to describe indigenous people and their ways of using and managing natural resources, has more recently been applied within the urban context to understand the variability of interactions between humans and nature. Significant progress has been made internationally in acknowledging the need to preserve and maintain green spaces in urban environments. Current efforts to address the need for greening urban areas in South Africa primarily focus on the establishment and maintenance of botanical gardens and parks as well as various green belts within the urban landscape. South Africa's urban areas are overwhelmingly shaped by the historical segregation of space and stark disparities in wealth. The distribution, quality, and extent of urban green spaces reflect this. Many township dwellers do not have access to these amenities and their interactions with nature are thus usually constrained to access to municipal commonages. This article explores how areas of natural vegetation in municipal commonages on the outskirts of urban centers in South Africa continue to offer places of cultural, spiritual, and restorative importance to Xhosa-speaking township dwellers. A case study from Grahamstown, an urban center in the Eastern Cape with a population of around 80,000, illustrates how ability to access and move through such places contributes to people's well-being, identity formation, and shared heritage. A case is made for adopting a biocultural diversity approach to spatial planning and urban development within the South African context.
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Description: More than half the world's human population resides in cities (United Nations Economic and Social Affairs Population Division 2015)1. Unpacking this singular statistic, it becomes clear that people come to live in urban environments via numerous routes. Some have lived in cities all their lives and are descendants of city dwellers. In other cases, cities spread and encircle them (Hurley et al. 2008; Unnikrishnan and Nagendra 2015). Increasingly, rural residents are national and transnational migrants to cities, pushed by armed conflict, natural disasters, and economic need or opportunity (United Nations Economic and Social Affairs Population Division 2013). In the case of the latter two routes, traditional ecological knowledge and practices involving flora and fauna may persist in urban habitats that constitute biocultural refugia (Barthel et al. 2010). This special section lifts up the proposition that such spaces, knowledge, and practices are fertile ground for ethnobiological study. Downloadable here:
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The current nature and challenges of urbanisation in sub-Saharan Africa display several unique features only weakly evident on other continents. Key ones include the current high rates of population growth, inadequate planning and governance systems, concentration in small and medium-sized towns, and increasing urban poverty. These shape the extent, nature and use of ecosystem services provided by urban green infrastructure. This paper first examines the location of green infrastructure across nine towns, showing that it is unequal between suburbs and that the bulk is located under private tenure (74%) rather than in public spaces. We then consider the extent and patterns of use of selected provisioning and cultural ecosystem services from green infrastructure in different locations within towns, including private gardens, public parks and street trees. The results show significant use of green infrastructure for a range of provisioning and cultural services as well as its contribution to spiritual and mental wellbeing. Provisioning contributions are both in regular support of livelihood needs as well as increased use after a covariate shock (a flood), both of which help reduce household vulnerability. Lastly, our results show the expressed level of support and willingness-to-pay or work amongst urban residents for green infrastructure and the services it provides. Whilst the composite results indicate marked variation between and within towns, they show that there is widespread use of green infrastructure for both basic needs as well as for more aesthetic and psycho-spiritual appreciation and recreation, in small and medium-sized towns in a developing country such as South Africa.
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Non-timber forest products (NTFPs) provide material subsistence and cash income to millions of rural people, particularly in less developed countries. This paper offers a systematic review of recent trends (2000-2010) in the ecological and economic sustainability of NTFPs. Of 101 NTFP ecological studies, most addressed harvest consequences at the population-individual level (62.4%), and over half (52.5%) were carried out in Latin America. Nearly two-thirds of research (63.3%) reported that extraction was sustainable or likely to be so, compared to less than one -fifth (17.8%) that found it to be unsustainable. Extractive enterprise in Latin America was most often reported as ecologically sustainable (82.6%), and least often in Asia (58.8%). Because little of the economic NTFP literature identifies whether extractive returns meet the financial needs of extractors, at least on a daily basis, we outline economic sustainability criteria in terms of whether returns surpass an absolute poverty line or alternative wage. Of the 71 articles presenting financial data, over two-thirds met or exceeded the threshold of economic sustainability. Roughly 75% of studies demonstrated that gatherers earned more than USD$2 PPP/day (the international absolute poverty line) or more than a local wage. These positive results do not, however, demonstrate that gathering reduces long-term poverty because forest dependence, and likely tenure security, remains low among these populations. Caution must be exercised in terms of extending these results into the future, as changing economic conditions, rates and sources of habitat modification, and climate change all point to increased extractive pressures on tropical forests and savannas.
Densification of cities is presently one of the dominating strategies for urbanization globally. However, how densification of cities is linked to processes in the peri-urban landscapes is rather unknown. The aim of this paper is to highlight the potentials in of peri-urban landscapes to be recognized as complementary providers of urban ecosystem services when green areas in cities are reduced by densification. We suggest that the way forward is to change the perceptions of peri-urban areas from being defined as located between cities and rural areas with a specific population density or a geographical distance, to become recognized as a landscape defined by its functionality. By identifying and describing the functionality in peri-urban landscapes the existing governance gaps can be recognized and thus dealt with through adaptation of existing planning tools. Although not yet articulated, peri-urban areas should be used to facilitate integration of top down and bottom up approaches and thereby closing the governance gaps. We illustrate this reasoning by two examples; one of the establishment of green wedges in Stockholm, Sweden, and the other with the establishments of international Model forests. We conclude that further densification of cities will create a lack of ecosystem services in cities by putting an even higher pressure on the peri-urban landscape and not as suggested today that densification lower pressure on peri-urban landscapes. Rethinking and reframing the peri-urban areas by adapting existing platforms will potentially contribute to a more nuanced discussion on strategies for urban development generally.
In sub-Saharan Africa, many people depend on natural resources for their livelihoods. While urbanisation causes landscape changes, little is known of how this process affects the use of wild plant resources by urban populations. This study contributes to addressing this knowledge gap by exploring the prevalence and determinants of urban collectors of wild plants in Kampala, Uganda. During February to August 2015, 93 structured interviews were conducted in inner, outer, and peri-urban areas of the city. The findings in this study show that urban wild plants are used by almost half (47%) of the respondents, mainly for medicinal purposes but also as a complement to diets. The findings further indicate that residents with lower income, of younger age (<51 years old), and predominantly living in peri-urban areas are more likely to be urban collectors. Seasonality appears to be of greater importance in collection of food plants than of medicinal plants. Overall, these findings indicate that wild plants occupy an important role in the livelihoods and traditions of Kampala's residents, and we argue that this should be taken into account in urban planning projects.
Gathering non-timber forest products (NTFPs) in cities and rural areas has received growing attention inresearch and news media. Yet little is known about the frequency of these activities and how attitudesabout and the practice of gathering differ across urban, suburban, and rural areas. We report on findingsfrom a mail survey of landowners across two urban-rural gradients in central and eastern Massachusetts,USA. The survey queried (a) attitudes towards gathering and a variety of other environmental benefits, (b)the practice of gathering, and (c) where gatherers harvest species. Survey responses reveal that gatheringis not a controversial use of land and is a relatively widespread activity across urban, suburban, and ruralareas. Further, the results show that gathering occurs on a mix of private and public lands and thatthere are important differences in the practice of gathering among individuals living in urban, suburban,and rural areas. Our findings have implications for understanding the social and ecological dynamics ofgathering and suggest that more research on gathering and other natural resource management issuesis needed, particularly in (sub)urban areas.