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Human Ecology

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Wild plants, Edible -- Identification, Urban forest canopy


Urban forests are multifunctional socio-ecological landscapes, yet some of their social benefits remain poorly understood. This paper draws on ethnographic evidence from Seattle, Washington to demonstrate that urban forests contain nontimber forest products that contribute a variety of wild foods, medicines, and materials for the wellbeing of urban residents. We show that gathering wild plants and fungi in urban forests is a persistent subsistence and livelihood practice that provides sociocultural and material benefits to city residents, and creates opportunities for connecting with nature and enhancing social ties. We suggest that an orientation toward human-nature interactions in cities that conceptualizes the gathering of forest products as a legitimate social benefit may support and expand urban forest justice. Urban forest justice recognizes the rights of local people to have control over their own culturally appropriate wild food and health systems, including access to natural resources and to the decision-making processes affecting them.


This work was authored as part of the Contributor's official duties as an Employee of the United States Government and is therefore a work of the United States Government. In accordance with 17 U.S.C. 105, no copyright protection is available for such works under U.S. Law.

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