Examining the potential to expand wildlife-supporting residential yards and gardens

Kelli L. Larson, Susannah B. Lerman, Kristen C. Nelson, Desiree L. Narango, Megan M. Wheeler, Peter M. Groffman, Sharon J. Hall, J. Morgan Grove

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Research has demonstrated that residential yards can provide important habitat for urban birds, pollinators, and other wildlife. In addition, the motivations and constraints underlying decisions to manage traditional lawns, water-conserving yards, native plants, and other landscape types are well understood. Yet relatively little research has addressed people's decisions to adopt wildlife-supporting yards. Analyzing survey data from six U.S. cities, we address three related questions: 1) to what extent do residents choose yard features that support wildlife habitat?; 2) how do yard priorities and neighborhood governance, along with socio-demographic factors, explain the adoption of wildlife-supporting features?; and 3) how do residents who have already adopted wildlife-supporting yard features differ in their motivations from those who plan to adopt such features and those who do not? We found significant potential for adding vegetation (specifically shrubs and native plants) and other wildlife-supporting features to increase yard complexity and vegetation diversity. While gardening as a hobby was a significant motivator for people who have adopted wildlife yard features, the desire for low-maintenance yards is a constraint among non-adopters. We therefore recommend promoting the planting of low-maintenance plant species or varieties that provide wildlife habitat but require little upkeep, especially among residents who would like to attract wildlife to their yards into the future. We also found that neighbourhood and homeowner associations increase the local adoption of wildlife-supporting yards. Coupled with other findings, our results underscore the importance of tailoring residential landscape features to diverse lifestyles while leveraging social institutions to expand wildlife habitat across urban and suburban neighborhoods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104396
JournalLandscape and Urban Planning
StatePublished - Jun 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by the National Science Foundation Macrosystems Biology program (MSB FRA 1638725 , 1638648 , 1638519 ) and the Central Arizona-Phoenix (DEB-1832016) and Baltimore (DEB 1637661) Long-Term Ecological Research Programs. Our thanks to colleagues, especially Chris Neill and Dexter Locke, for providing input on this research.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Elsevier B.V.


  • Biological conservation
  • Residential landscapes
  • Urban ecology
  • Wildlife gardens
  • Yard management


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