Virtual Garden: A Novel Tool to Explore the People-Biodiversity Relationship

Our world is changing rapidly, in a process that destructs and alters natural environments to create ecosystems that are more beneficial for people, resulting in a biodiversity crisis. The grandest challenge of humanity today is to find sustainable solutions to develop human-dominated environments that balance between people’s needs today and environmental stewardship. However, in order to promoteactions that could be costly and space demanding, it is important to also understand the role that biodiversity plays in people’s daily lives.

Virtual Garden is a 3D user-friendly and attractive software that offers people the opportunity to design their own greenspaces by choosing sets of biotic and abiotic elements (Shwartz et al. in press, Conservation Biology).

Therefore it allows researchers and practitioners to explore garden design, but mostly which biodiversity people want, across countries and cultures circumventing issues related to question formulation, while accounting for the different functions people may look for in greenspaces.


Software and Hardware requirements for Virtual Garden 3D tool:

 1) Install .NET framework from here

2) Instal Visual C++ Redistributable here

3) A video card with at least DirectX 10.

Who can use Virtual Garden?

Researchers, city-planners, landscape architectures, policy makers and NGOs that want to better understand how greenspaces and the biodiversity they enclose benefits people.

How it works?

Interviewees are offered to design their ideal greenspace and later when they finish also fill-up a short questionnaire to track and monitor socio-economic and other profile variables. The create automatically for each user a folder in Documents\Virtual Garden\User 000001…IN this folder it create 5 files that computes information that allow to explore people’s preferences regarding garden design and biodiversity:

  1. summary.txt: contain all the features that were placed in the gardens their abundance (i.e., number of individual feature) and several design and diversity indexes (e.g., species richness, lawn cover and tree cover)
  2. actions.txt: this file tracks the sequence of garden creation. For instance, first feature that was placed was natural pond at 3/25/2013 11:19:50 AM it was then moved at  3/25/2013 11:33:42 AM 13:45:25 and rotated at 3/25/2013 11:33:47 AM etc….
  3. survey.txt: supersize the answers to the questionnaire
  4. garden.grd and screenshot: the garden file is saved and can be later re-opened to further explore the garden and screenshot of the garden is saved as well.

More detailed information on software’s usage and adaptation is available as pdf:

  1. How to use Virtual Garden (+short video that provide an example)
  2. How to adapt the software for your requirement
  3. Code in R for reading the results and creating a database.


Please contact Assaf Shwartz ( for inquiries and additional information

 Action Screen Shots of Virtual Gardens created in Paris (FR)


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