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Urban foraging in Berlin: people, plants and practices within the metropolitan green infrastructure

Landor-Yamagata, Jonah L.; Kowarik, Ingo; Fischer, Leonie Katharina

FG Ökosystemkunde / Pflanzenökologie

Gathering wild plants in cities (urban foraging) is likely an important, but understudied human-nature interaction globally. As large European cities are critically understudied in this regard, we performed in-depth ethnography-based interviews in Berlin, Germany, to shed light on the cultural background of foragers, their motivations and which plants and fungi are gathered for which purposes. Results demonstrate multiple uses of 125 taxa, mostly frequently-occurring species but also some Red List species, from a range of formal and informal greenspace types. Both native and non-native species were gathered, with significant differences in use patterns. Use for food was most common, followed by medicinal uses, and personal enjoyment was a frequent motivation, indicating that urban foraging combines provisioning and cultural ecosystem services. Familial and childhood foraging exposure were common, pointing to influences of early-in-life exposure on later-in-life activities and transgenerational aspects of the practice. Results further suggest legacy effects from the post-war and communist eras on foraging knowledge. Although non-commercial foraging is allowed in Berlin, over-harvesting was not evident. Interviews indicate that stewardship of urban biodiversity is common among foragers. Results thus suggest considering urban foraging as a promising vehicle for linking humans with nature when developing a biodiverse urban green infrastructure.