The area of abandoned and vacant land is increasing in urban ecosystems. How these places can be greened to maximize ecosystem services is an active area of research.
In Baltimore, Maryland (USA), there are >14,000 vacant lots. These lots are characterized by poor, compact soils and are interspersed in high-density residential areas.
We have studies underway that are manipulating two aspects of biodiversity – functional and phylogenetic – to learn if ecosystem services can be maximized in these environmentally harsh, yet publicly exposed environments. Large scale manipulations of herbaceous plant communities were planted in replicate vacant lots in Spring 2014, and will be monitored as part of a collaboration with the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. Inmates will be tasked with implementing, maintaining and sampling the study over many years. The findings will be used to inform the Baltimore Office of Sustainability on how to cost-effectively manage these green spaces in the short term.