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Meadow or lawn. Plant a meadow instead of mowing a lawn. Cambridge researchers did so, and they were stunned by the result

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British scientists conducted an experiment in which they did not take care of the lawn at one of the universities for several years. Instead, they planted dozens of species of flowers there and let them grow. “I was really surprised by the scale of change in such a small area,” said one of the authors of the paper.

According to analyzes published in the scientific journal “Ecological Solutions and Evidence”, a wild meadow is a much better solution in terms of ecology than a trimmed lawn. As noted by the authors of the work from the University of Cambridge, although a manicured fragment of greenery has its advantages – for example, it can be used for sports, it is not conducive to nature. The researchers also indicated that taking care of the lawn is a much more expensive and time-consuming solution than letting it grow in its natural rhythm.

Several years of observation

A group of scientists began their observations in 2019. The famous Back Lawn was the first time since 1772 that the entire lawn was not mowed. Instead, a mixture of wild flowers – poppies, cornflowers and daisies – was scattered and allowed to grow. According to recent observations, a colorful, flowery patch the size of a football field contained up to 3.6 times more plants, insects and arachnids than nearby lawns.

As the researchers mentioned, in 2021 there were about four times as many species of plants at risk of extinction in the meadow than when it was a well-kept lawn. Along with the flowers, insects quickly appeared, and after the insects, various types of predators. Researchers say native bat species are foraging much more frequently now.

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“I was really surprised by the scale of change in such a small area,” enthused ecologist Cicely Marshall of the University of Cambridge.

The meadow began its “work” with 33 species of plants. Currently, at least 51 others are growing on it. As stated in the research, she was left alone, there is no man who takes care of her, mows, fertilizes or waters her.

Not only animals, but also the climate

Researchers have pointed to other benefits of maintaining the meadow. For example, compared to a lawn, it reflects much more sunlight. According to the researchers, this could help ‘maintain a cooler urban microclimate in the face of future global warming’. They also added that such tracts of greenery can store carbon, which is why many potential emissions are stopped. They estimated that around 1.36 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per hectare per year could be stopped each year thanks to the meadow. This is mainly due to the lack of need to mow and fertilize.

At this point, it is worth noting that these profits were achieved thanks to an experiment carried out on a small patch of greenery. This means that even small meadows can have a beneficial effect on wildlife. However, if a similar solution were introduced on a larger scale, the effects would be staggering.

– Many people mow their lawns because they have always done so. There is a perception that a mowed lawn shows that you take better care of the garden, said Steve Coghill, a gardener at the University of Cambridge. However, he added, breaking with this belief may turn out to be a really good solution.

Satisfaction of students and employees

The researchers also surveyed college students and staff to gauge their views on a wilder lawn. It turned out that most of the answers were positive, and the respondents said that they prefer a meadow to an empty lawn. Some even claimed that the lawns were “sterile and unattractive”, and the meadow – paradoxically – “more aesthetic”.

As noted by Marshall, urban lawns are a great opportunity to protect biodiversity. – People who take the first step can help others see the benefits. Respected, well-known institutions can be role models here and influence public opinion, she added.

Main photo source: Shutterstock

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