Urban Food Forests: Ecological-Human Connectivity and Rights to Access

A 2019-2020 Seed Grant Award
Principal Investigator: Anne C. Bellows

With Stewart Diemont (SUNY ESF) co-PI, and Matthew Potteiger (SUNY ESF) co-I.
CUSE Grant – Innovative & Interdisciplinary Research, $20,000.

The Urban Food Forests: Ecological-Human Connectivity and Rights to Access proposal weaves together ecological sciences, landscape design, and urban food policy to develop an innovative approach to assessing the potential for edible urban food forests that serve as connective ecological and human infrastructure. As “green infrastructure,” urban forests provide critical ecological services such as sequestering carbon, ameliorating urban heat island effect, reducing storm water runoff, and mitigating climate change. However, little attention has been paid to the components of urban forests that are edible for humans or to the cultural practices of foraging and harvesting non-timber forest products. This project examines a transect through varied topographic and demographic areas of Syracuse, New York to develop benchmarks for assessing bio-physical connectivity and community access to the edible ecology.

This pilot project examines human-ecological connectivity in urban food forests through three interrelated research questions that reflect the interdisciplinary team and approach:

  • How can edible landscapes contribute to ecological function and services of urban forests?
  • How can urban food forests be designed as a connected network of diverse, novel ecologies that include parks, undeveloped areas, community gardens and urban farms, and interstitial spaces?
  • How can responsible community co-governance of public and private urban landscapes provide stable tenure/access to food producing land, forest, and water resources?

Through structured assessment and community engagement, the project will develop recommendations for policy, design, and modeling of edible urban forests so that the urban landscape contributes more meaningfully to food security and biological conservation.