Urban meadows can help halt biodiversity decline

The Urban BESS project scientifically measure the benefits of introducing perennial meadows into urb

This week the Government’s State of Nature report warns that more than one in 10 of the UK’s wildlife species are threatened with extinction and the numbers of the nation’s most endangered creatures have plummeted by two-thirds since 1970.

New findings from researchers from the University of Sheffield’s Departments of Landscape and Animal and Plant Sciences provide convincing evidence that these changes may be partially mitigated in urban areas, where local authorities could replace large swathes of grass with areas of flowering meadow. This would at the same time enhance public enjoyment of these spaces.

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.

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. The addition of urban meadows to green spaces increased public appreciation of the space.

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

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.”

Read more about the Urban BESS project

Read the Urban Meadows Policy and Practice note.

Research focusing on the public response to the introduction of perennial urban meadows will be published in the Journal of Landscape and Urban Planning: Southon, Georgina E.; Jorgensen, Anna; Dunnett, Nigel; Hoyle, Helen; Evans, Karl L., (2016). Biodiverse perennial meadows have aesthetic value and increase residents’ perceptions of site quality in urban green-space. Landscape and Urban Planning
DOI 10.1016/j.landurbplan2016.08.003

Read the full State of Nature report here.