In your opinion, do cultivated areas (gardens, urban parks, farms) count as nature?

Speaking personally, in the past I had always discounted human-dominated areas as not ‘nature’, compared to, say, national parks or reserves.

In recent times my perspective has evolved; while areas set aside for conservation tend to have the full length and breadth of ecosystems and trophic relationships, human-dominated landscapes still have ecological interactions and wild organisms that live their lives outside of human control (self-propagating, etc).

The interactions that take place between wild and captive/cultivated organisms are still nature - still ecological interactions: novel relationships between native and alien species (e.g. hawthorn flies shifting to apples), the offspring of ornamental plants establishing themselves outside of garden/park limits, crows and gulls scavenging off the rubbish tip, and guard dogs guarding livestock as protection from predators.

It’s not ‘primeval’ nature as one would think of nature, but it’s still nature nonetheless.


There is a long thread on here from last year about the best finds in your yard, and there were some very impressive stuff on there.
In heavily cultivated environments, like a mall’s drainage area that I would go by heading to work, Willet, or American Woodcock. I had a Merlin in someone’s backyard on a Christmas Bird Count. I would say that it can absolutely count as nature.


It is hard to draw a distinction, a bird landing in a tree does not care if it was planted by a person or an errant seed. Insects make a plant their home, regardless of its cultivation status. As you said, the “rubbish tip” our local landfill and composting facility draws a numerous amount of birds, so much so that they hired a biologist full-time to scare them off, and if that did not work, to kill them. Last I heard his contract was not renewed. Part of the problem is that humans have turned the local waterways from being packed full of salmon in the 60s to almost non-existent today. Several populations (Steelhead) are basically nill, and several others are on the way out (Sockeye). So, we have a lot of bald eagles and great blue herons that spend hours staring into a basically dead river. Then you have an all-you-can-eat buffet a few miles away.

I would always see hummingbirds around our mailboxes in my complex, and I thought it must like a tree or plant around there. No, it likes the feeders that at least one neighbor puts out. We have quite a few that live here year-round, so I doubt they can afford to be picky.

I am fascinated and terrified by the invasive species that are overtaking the landscape seemingly everywhere because of humans, around here it’s Himalayan blackberry, although English ivy and Scotch broom are very bad, too.

Lots of water retention ponds around here are required of new developments to mitigate pollution from all the extra people, they attract lots of wildlife. It is almost like as much as humans try to make things sterile and dead (although the retention ponds are designed for wild animals as well), nature has different ideas and will bring life there. At least here in a temperate area with adequate rainfall.


It’s a cut version of ecosystem, like a monocultural field, but with more species and high human pressure, the last is what shapes it, not only by planting and cultivating, but just by humans themselves being there. Surely you will find species everywhere, like, your house is a home for many invertebrates and probably thousands of species of microorganisms, so there’re natural interactions happening all the time. If there weren’t anything alive we weren’t be doing citizen science after all.
Definition of nature clearly depends on the aim you have to use it, context matters. But if we say nature is a highly biodiverse ecosystem that can sustain itself, most parks won’t fit this description until you leave them for some hundred years (and current European forests proove that).

Apart from the green desert, mown lawns, fairways at golf courses - there is a growing trend towards wildlife gardening.
Last year our local lowland fynbos nursery was restoration planting the Royal Cape golf course. Schools across the Cape Flats are planting a migration corridor for sunbirds.

iNat’s annual bioblitz leans heavily to encouraging city dwellers to see the nature that is there.


To me everything is nature. A graden has plants that are nature. Nature are animals. Most of the time(not all but most of the time) seeds come from plants that are non-cultivated. Again, this is only my opinion. Let me know your opinion as ever opinion matters!

For iNaturalist purposes, in my opinion, “do cultivated areas count as nature” is the wrong question. Wild animals and plants are ones that got themselves where they are, even if all they’re doing now is trying to leave. Weeds in the garden, birds in the back yard, spiders in the bathroom, are all wild. They’re all bits of nature, even in human-dominated habitats.


I teach biology labs at a university. This week, my colleague and I took our classes outside for a plant expedition; we were ‘taking an evolutionary tour of the plant phyla’. Our campus is heavily landscaped, but we were able to find liverworts growing at the base of a north-facing stone wall, at least ten species of moss all growing in one patch of lawn between lecture halls, horsetails popping up in the decorative gravel outside a campus building built only four years ago, and polypody ferns growing from a rock outcrop at the base of a parking lot. Most of the conifers and flowering plants we sampled were intentionally planted, but some, like the teasel and cattails that grow in the small wetland, arrived on their own.

So, in terms of plants, it seems we humans have some control over the larger and more obvious groups (the trees, shrubs, and ‘lawn’ grasses), but many of the smaller, inconspicuous species fit into our programs where they will. I find it very reassuring.


Yes. No question. Nature is both biological and abiotic. We could talk about the nature on Mars.

The idea of “primeval” nature is problematic; humans have always had an impact on landscapes. It’s just out of control now.


Managed spaces are absolutely part of nature!

It is a difference type of ecosystem, to be sure. You’ll find organisms that are more successful in disturbed or anthropogenic environments, and fewer co-evolved specialists, but it is an ecosystem nonetheless. Gardens of only planted flowers will still have wild pollinators visit, and wild parasites and predators of those pollinators, and wild pathogens in the soil, etc. There are even species that thrive within our homes (check out the Never Alone - Wildlife of Homes project on iNat).

We also should recognize that what is wild is always in some state of change. Eastern US forests used to be structured by chestnut trees, and when the blight killed them the dominant trees because something else that supported a slightly different cast of species. Most of the “wild” spaces around the world are not truly wild anyways (like plastic at the bottom of the ocean). Humans have been altering the landscape for as long as we’ve been around. Although the last few hundred years have been a different type of change, even urban environments aren’t sterile, so there will be wildlife to make use of it too.


I always encourage iNatters to investigate places such as gardens and urban parks, farms, etc because even though one can argue that they are not “Nature”, still they are surprisingly full of wild plants, fungi, and wild animals of all various kinds.


Interesting to read the range of perspectives on this question.

A related question would be; are non-native, feral birds and animals (e.g. parakeets in the UK, cats in Australia) considered as nature here?

I have seen ‘observations’ of plants that are based on photos of cultivated specimens; are they allowed? Are they considered valid as observations?

Urban wildlife is amazing, and I’m still not entirely sure how it can thrive. While it’s certainly not the largest city, here are some anomalies I spotted in downtown Nashville, TN about a week ago;

I’ll admit I’m kind of proud of these finds and wanted to show them off, but it’s more incredible that they’re able to survive our human wasteland. Opossums require hiding spaces and ambient biomass for food, different insects and fruits that vary on a seasonal basis. Plethodontid salamanders are painfully fragile when it comes to anthropogenic pollutants, soil disturbance, and especially the eradication of natural communities (I shudder a bit to think about what biodiversity has been lost in the Southeast because of this). Land snails have a similar story.

As for farms, maybe a European naturalist can confirm, but in some research I’ve done about Scotland, Norway, and a few other “re-wilding” initiatives state how important it is to preserve habitats that have been modified for long periods of time, containing animals and plants that have adapted to live there. Back in my “neck of the woods,” Sandhill Cranes, Snow Geese, etc. would have a hard time making their migration successful without latent cornfields in the winter. Cornfields will never adequately replace floodplain savannahs, but they’re pretty integrated into a delicate ecological story now. Eliminating them would be like putting up a birdfeeder after all backyard chickadees become dependent; the results would be pretty bad.

Based on my own experience and opinion, nothing beats a flourishing ecosystem with minimal disturbance (not necessarily lack of humans, but ideally with a complete lack of our moronic, self-destructive processes that have arisen throughout the last few millenia). It’s easier to see wildlife in the city; they have nowhere to hide. But the places that species thrive are in the “wild,” the natural places they call home without intervention; in “real grasslands,” mountains where busy roads don’t slice through their sides, and biodiverse swamps ranging for acres.

I kind of rambled here, but basically I think it boils down to a sense of place (like Wendell Berry writes). If you appreciate where you are, and its unique, ecological beauty as it presents itself, you’ll ultimately get the most fulfilling experience of “nature.”


Feral animals are wild, cultivated plants should be marked, you can look up a big theme about cultivated status on iNat. Any observation is valid though, just need to mark mentioned plants and pets.


In all honesty? I’ve always been of the mindset that everywhere is nature. Nature does not care about our buildings and manicured gardens and parking lots, stuff ekes out a living everywhere and the why and how behind what thrives in human spaces is really cool


Nature, but not natural nature. Unless humans are natural (we are a product of natural processes) and thus just another component of biological diversity, and then we too, along with our gardens, are natural nature! It all depends on how one wants to define things.

The antonym of nature is artificial–which is something man-made (pardon, I mean human-made). A garden or farm is human-made, but the components of the garden or farm are natural. So I think, philosophically speaking, they must be considered part nature and part artificial.


There’s an umbrella project for “home projects” and many of them are from urban areas, including mine. I love the challenge of nature watching in cities. There’s biodiversity to appreciate wherever you are.


Non-native plants, birds, and other animals that are breeding on their own (without humans controlling them) are considered wild for iNaturalist. Parakeets, etc. There are some confusing issues, like the plants we botanists call “waifs,” growing from seed blown off trucks are from yard waste; we call them “wild” I think.

Cultivated specimens and domestic animals are allowed BUT they must my marked “not wild” or “captive/cultivated.” Lots of observers neglect to do that. (We identifiers can mark them if the observers didn’t.) Observations of non-wild organisms don’t reach “Research Grade” and therefore won’t be used for most research projects. However, they stay in the database and can be used by people who think to search using the appropriate filters.


Well, I would think, it all depends upon meaning one puts into the word “nature”. Because in fact, it is used more like a cultural, not scientific definition. If you understand nature as a substitute for habitat or ecosystem, then yes, everything is nature because you can find living organisms everywhere. But if one goes into the cultural layers of the word, nature is generally understood as something outside purely urban or industrial environment or arable fields. And then, again, the meanings will differ: a golf player will emphasize that playing golf is one way being in nature, a tourist will marvel about exotic nature in virtually industrial fields of crops exotic to them, others will only accept nature if it is natural or semi-natural ecosystem. Just semantics.


There is a whole field of study on Socioeconomic Systems. The paper linked to below starts off with “There are no social systems without nature, and few ecosystems without people, such as some large wilderness areas, recognizable for their intactness and for the very low population density.” ( (PDF) Socioecological Systems ( So yes, my small garden is a little habitat for many living things, especially since I don’t spray it. As @dianastuder mentions, mown lawns offer few opportunities for habitat, so a simple thing we can do is minimise mowing (I actually consider mown lawns to be immoral, but that’s a different rant). Plants grow out of cracks in concrete, peregrine falcons live on buildings, and insects live both inside and outside homes. So yeah, all ‘nature’. People can still do a lot to increase the habitat availability, but non human life in human spaces is still ‘nature’.