Decades of population loss have left the city of Cleveland with 3,600 acres of vacant land. Some 1,000 homes are demolished every year.
Currently, Cleveland plants turfgrass on these empty lots, but it’s expensive to maintain and offers few benefits.
“Alternative plant communities could offer greater environmental benefits such as support of biodiversity and improved storm-water infiltration to reduce flooding,” said OARDC scientist Mary Gardiner, associate professor in the Department of Entomology.
Last year, Gardiner started a large-scale, never-tried-before project examining the impact of eight different landscape treatments on the biodiversity and ecosystem function of 64 empty lots in eight Cleveland neighborhoods.
The five-year project’s main goal is to gather data that will inform future green space design in Cleveland and other cities engaged or interested in vacant-land management.
“With the right combination of plants and increased ecosystem services,” she said, “urban vacant land can be seen as an asset for community development rather than as an eyesore.”
“Alternative plant communities can offer greater environmental benefits.”—Mary Gardiner
Greening the land in the ’Land
- The project is funded by a highly competitive $909,200 Faculty Early Career Development Program grant from the National Science Foundation, which promotes integrating research and education.
- Part of the project includes developing a high school science curriculum for use by teachers in Cleveland and elsewhere in Ohio.
- A related program involves training Master Gardener volunteers on issues related to urban farming.
- To contact the scientist: Mary Gardiner at firstname.lastname@example.org.