Replacing grass with flowering meadow could help halt declining biodiversity in the UK, research says.

Flower pageReplacing areas of grass with flowering meadow could help halt declining biodiversity in the UK, new research suggests.

The State of Nature 2016 report, released earlier this month by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), revealed more than one in 10 of the UK’s wildlife species are threatened with extinction.

New findings from the Faculty’s Department of Landscape, as well as the University’s Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, provide convincing evidence that these changes can be partially mitigated in urban areas by replacing large swathes of grass with flowering meadow.

The findings are the result of the Urban BESS meadows experiment, a five-year study, involving the Universities of Sheffield and Cranfield with Luton Parks Service and Bedford Borough Council. The aim was to scientifically measure the benefits of introducing perennial meadows into urban areas. Researchers also found that replacing grass with meadow enhanced public enjoyment of these spaces.

Dr Helen Hoyle, Research Associate in the Department of Landscape said: “Many people living in urban areas may not be familiar with the scientific concepts of ‘species’ or ‘species diversity’. Our research has shown that the introduction of urban meadows not only enhances invertebrate biodiversity; it also has aesthetic value and increases ordinary residents’ perceptions of the quality of their urban greenspaces.”

In 2013 nine different meadow mixes were sown at each of the seven experimental meadow sites.The researchers found that across all sites, users preferred meadows to informal herbaceous planting and formal bedding planting styles.

Almost without exception, there were more invertebrates in the experimental meadow plots than in the surrounding mown amenity grass, regardless of invertebrate group, meadow plot or season.

It is hoped that these results can be used to help local authorities introduce more meadows into local parks and greenspaces, in ways that are welcomed by local communities.