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

I think the division implied by the initial question of this topic is a false one. (A common one, though!) If a park is unnatural, that supposes that humans and human actions are unnatural and somehow apart from our surroundings. There’s the background idea that nature is a perfect state attained in the absence of humans. Really, it feels more like a kind of moral judgment than anything you can map more directly onto a real place.

I think it’s more useful to think of it in terms of ecosystems, or habitat, or biodiversity. An office building, a public park, and a section of undisturbed forest are all habitats which contain ecosystems, they will just host very different species and will have differing levels of biodiversity.

So I suppose the answer is that yes, I would consider cultivated areas to be a part of nature, because I believe humans and habitats constructed and shaped by humans are a part of nature too.

I think this also leads to more useful ways of thinking about the spaces we construct. If a university campus is an unnatural space solely for inhabitation by humans, then there’s less room for thought beyond the “nature / not nature” question. Think of a university campus instead as a space primarily intended for human activities and habitation, but host to other organisms as well, and you can work more intentionally to help improve the biodiversity of the space. You won’t be able to make an inherently high-traffic space suitable for larger and shyer species, but you can work to make it host a greater diversity of small species and act as part of a fragmentary habitat for flying species that will make good use of it.


You make a good point about the divide between humans and human impacts and non-human elements being a false one. Objectively speaking, we indeed are nature, and by extension, that makes our impacts on ecosystems natural too.

However, I think it’s an useful fiction, especially in terms of conservation and ecosystem health. It’s better for many different species across different phyla (including ourselves) all round if we limit our negative impacts as much as possible. Especially those that reproduce slowly, are very sensitive to chemical pollution, etc.

So in order to keep unscrupulous developers and speculators from doing whatever they like, we call their activities (habitat destruction through building development, pollution of waterways, etc) ‘unnatural’ and try to limit it where possible through legal and other means. By calling such activities and products “unnatural” it gives additional incentive to mitigate the negative effects, e.g. picking up plastic pollution from the beach so that it doesn’t harm wildlife, setting aside habitats where human activities are limited or disallowed, calling for legal protection of habitats and certain species negatively impacted by human activities, etc.

So while the divide is fictional, it’s useful in terms of what we want to achieve with regard to conservation, preventing abuse of legal and financial systems by unscrupulous individuals, etc.


Human actions are in fact very apart of our surroindings, our species evolved in ecosystem that got used to us and other apes that lived at the same time, other world didn’t do as good, and of course any large building that takes huge land, any monoculture field instead of initial ecosystem are definitely a cut short ecosystem that doesn’t allow enough number of local species to live there in decent numbers. Otherwise we wouldn’t face any extinctions because of habitat loss.


Mono-cultures do provide habitats for non-target species, especially with the adoption of zero till agriculture. They are not ideal habitats, but the abundance of ‘pest’ species testifies to farmers inability to kill everything.


I’m tempted to say that any sort of monoculture of a uniform height and density, whether it be alien invasive plants, or indigenous vegetation propogated and intensively spread purposefully by people, is by definition unnatural. This is because the organisms that are exposed to such environments have not had nearly enough time to adapt behaviours which allow them to conceal, feed and reproduce effectively here

With this said though, monocultures do (rarely) occur under natural circumstances in natural area’s, major difference being that these are often in the form of localised pockets of vegetation with which local wildlife have learned the benefits and dangers associated with such abundance and act accordingly


Sorry in the case I reaffirm concepts already expressed.
I would say yes, these man-made environments are “nature” but not in their cultivated components. There is a large literature dealing with all the geochemical and wild biodiversity aspects of man-made environments.

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If I identify native columbine growing in the woods behind my backyard and being crowded out by invasive shining geranium, and take care to tear out the geranium and encourage the columbines, is that natural? If I stop spraying a hay field for ten years, and find all sorts of native and introduced species there that weren’t there before, is it nature? What about after a century? Is it different if that hay field is enveloped by urban devlopment, or a state park up in the mountains? Of course the ecosystems will be different is some ways and similar in others, but can you really draw a hard line, or isn’t it more of a gradient of colors and textures and interrelations?

I think it’s all so interrelated, of course we should take care to protect those truly ‘wild’ areas that have been reasonably undisturbed by humans for great lengths of time, but the biodiversity of a hedgerow is just as real and vital. Sometimes the cougar that stalks the old-growth and second-planting forests up in the mountains nearby follows the river down past homes and monocultured fields and through that hedgerow to another part of their range. Migratory birds stop over in all sorts of “un-natural” places, from agricultural fields to tall city buildings.

Of course, you should take care to mark things accuratley to iNat’s guidelines for iNat, but getting caught up in a black and white defintion of natural or not is to miss out on a lot of really interesting parts of nature, and probably means missing part of the picture of how humans and nature interract.


Yes. So is the red sand spurrey growing in the cracks in my driveway.

The idea that humans and human works are separate from nature is an archaic misconception. If it were true there would be no anthropogenic climate change or any of the other ecological and environmental messes made by people.

The idea of human creation as unnatural is a cultural artifact. It’s shared by most of the dominant global cultures, if not all. The worldview of cultures like Anishnaabewin that view humans as members of a community of beings bound to each other in reciprocal relationships doesn’t admit to the possibility of separation.

Parks and gardens are faces of nature that reflect human presence. So are toxic waste dumps and abandoned minefields. Speak to a child who has lived her whole life scavenging garbage in a a massive landfill site about nature and what do you think she will talk about?


Tried to do this post on my phone and posted unintentionally before I was done. Also, I hate autocomplete.


The cultivated areas such as gardens and parks and so on, well, they may not really be defined as nature, but they sure do support a lot of accidental and incidental nature.


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