A new craze is sweeping the country. Artificial turf. One company has registered a 220% yearly increase in trade for artificial grass. But as families, schools and local councils rapidly turf over their open spaces with artificial lawns, there is growing concern among conservationists and green organisations.
The turf, usually made from a mix of plastics such as polypropene, polyurethane and polyethylene, needs little to no maintenance and never requires cutting. However, the growing demand for the “quick fix” of an artificial lawn threatens to excel the loss of wildlife and habitats across the UK. Lawns can provide important habitat for a whole range of garden wildlife, particularly if left uncut in places. Typical lawn plants, such as daisies and dandelions, can provide important forage resources for pollinators like bees and butterflies. Lawns can support a whole range of invertebrates, bees are known to burrow into lawns and ants can also often be found under turf. Lawns also provide habitat for earthworms which are really important in terms of keeping the soil healthy, nutrient full and structured, so that the soil system can cope in the event of heavy rain.
The booming invertebrate communities in lawn habitats attract other species including birds such as green woodpeckers and blackbirds and also mammals such as moles, hedgehogs and badgers. By laying an artificial lawn you are effectively creating a desert in your back garden that wildlife will avoid.
Yet the artificial lawn fashion looks set to continue, some landscape gardeners are now switching from their traditional gardening work to spend their time excavating the soil and laying the hardcore to install fake lawns. The trend is a worrying one, research by the London Wildlife Trust in 2011 revealed that, in the space of eight years, 3,000ha (12 sq miles) of garden vegetation has been lost in London alone. That stacks up to the equivalent of two Hyde Park’s a year.
And what about at the end of the artificial turf’s life? Well the material is non-biodegradable and will ultimately end up in landfill.
The proliferation of artificial lawns is growing in to a huge problem for British wildlife. At A Rocha UK we are making sure that we are promoting good practise for wildlife through allowing patches of grassland to go wild and providing insect houses around the site.
Source: The Guardian, 2016