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Reducing chemicals in urban private gardens to promote biodiversity, health and ecosystem services

Natural habitats for wildlife have significantly decreased in the modern intensely farmed and exploited landscape. Because of this the private garden spaces in town and cities can offer important refuge and havens for naturally occurring organisms. Several species that occupy these habitats also provide important ecosystem services in the gardens, such as pollination of fruits, berries and vegetables, and some species can act as natural enemies of certain pests.


A bee sitting on a cornflower. Photo.

The problem is that many private, urban garden spaces today also contain various different toxic chemicals and pesticides used by the garden owners for different purposes. These chemicals can affect both the natural species that live in the garden as well as the health of the garden keepers.

The overall objective of the ChemFreeGarden research project is to increase our understanding of the risks and effects that emerge from chemical use in our urban garden spaces.  Specific knowledge about the risks for both wildlife and humans remains unclear, also which chemicals are used and how they leak into the environment. During the project we will study different species that live in garden environments, from the soil to the vegetation to the water to the air, to assess exposure effects, and we will also investigate attitudes and health of garden owners.

To study this a team of researchers from different disciplines at Lund University and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences will work together to answer relevant questions related to the project aims. 

The project study area is focused on the town of Lund making use of private gardens and allotments. The municipality of Lund (Lunds kommun) is an active collaborator thoughout the project.

The ChemFreeGarden project wants to produce knowledge needed to promote more sustainable urban gardens, increase biodiversity and ecosystem services, and reduce risks for human health. This knowledge is essential to reach the national environmental quality objectives set up by Sweden, and is especially relevant for the aims of “A Non-Toxic Environment”.

Involved researchers

Maria C. Hansson (CEC), project manager

Martijn van Praagh (CEC)

Johanna Alkan Olsson (CEC)

Charlotta Turner (Chemistry)

Daniel Molins Delgado (Chemistry)

Christian Lindh (Occupational and environmental medicine)

Erik Öckinger (Swedish university of agricultural sciences)