Project

Urban grassland management: a questionnaire study across Europe

Goal: The aim of our study is to assess the attitudes of urban inhabitants towards an ecological management of urban habitats in Europe.

In northern Europe the focus is on urban mowing regimes of urban grasslands i.e. tall-growing urban grasslands in contrast to short ordinary lawns (a.k.a amenity grasslands), while the southern European version also includes questions on irrigation of urban grasslands.

Outcomes of our study may on the one hand show peoples attitude towards urban nature which might also acts as valuable habitat for wildlife, and on the other hand it will be of practical relevance for management decisions of urban green space, i.e. urban grasslands.

Methods: Questionnaire-Based Surveys

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Project log

Víctor Vázquez
added a research item
Grasslands are widespread elements of urban greenspace providing recreational, psychological and aesthetic benefits to city residents. Two urban grassland types of contrasting management dominate urban greenspaces: frequently mown, species-poor short-cut lawns and less intensively managed, near-natural tall-grass meadows. The higher conservation value of tall-grass meadows makes management interventions such as converting short-cut lawns into tall-grass meadows a promising tool for urban biodiversity conservation. The societal success of such interventions, however, depends on identifying the values urban residents assign to different types of urban grasslands, and how these values translate to attitudes towards greenspace management. Using 2027 questionnaires across 19 European cities, we identify the assigned values that correlate with people's personal greenspace use and their preferences for different types of urban grasslands to determine how these values relate to the agreement with a scenario of converting 50% of their cities’ short-cut lawns into tall-grass meadows. We found that most people assigned nature-related values, such as wildness, to tall-grass meadows and utility-related values, such as recreation, to short-cut lawns. Positive value associations of wildness and species richness with tall-grass meadows, and social and nature-related greenspace activities, positively correlated with agreeing to convert short-cut lawns into tall-grass meadows. Conversely, disapproval of lawn conversion correlated with positive value associations of cleanliness and recreation potential with short-cut lawns. Here, people using greenspaces for nature-related activities were outstandingly positive about lawn conversion. The results show that the plurality of values assigned to different types of urban grasslands should be considered in urban greenspace planning. For example, tall-grass meadows could be managed to also accommodate the values associated with short-cut lawns, such as tidiness and recreation potential, to support their societal acceptance.
Valentin H Klaus
added an update
The paper
"Acceptance of near-natural greenspace management relates to ecological and socio-cultural assigned values among European urbanites"
will be published in an special issue on urban ecology in Basic and Applied Ecology.
We congratulate Jussi Lampinen, the first author of this work, to his great achievement!
 
Víctor Vázquez
added a research item
Increasing urbanization worldwide calls for more sustainable urban development. Simultaneously, the global biodiversity crisis accentuates the need of fostering biodiversity within cities. Policies supporting urban nature conservation need to understand people’s acceptance of biodiversity-friendly greenspace management. We surveyed more than 2,000 people in 19 European cities about their attitudes toward near-natural urban grassland management in public greenspaces, and related their responses to nine sociocultural parameters. Results reveal that people across Europe can support urban biodiversity, yet within the frames of a generally tidy appearance of public greenery. Younger people and those using greenspaces for a greater variety of activities were more likely to favor biodiversity-friendly greenspace management. Additionally, people who were aware of the meaning of biodiversity and those stating responsibility for biodiversity conservation particularly supported biodiversity-friendly greenspace management. Our results point at explicit measures like environmental education to increase public acceptance of policies that facilitate nature conservation within cities.
Valentin H Klaus
added an update
Only recently, we were notified the results of our study will soon be published in Conservation Letters. Looking forward to soon being able to provide the link to our open access article. Its surely worth reading!
 
Valentin H Klaus
added an update
Lena Neuenkamp will give a presentation about the project and the results at the GfÖ Annual Meeting 2019 September 09 to 13, 2019 in Münster, Germany: https://www.gfoe-conference.de
Session: Urban ecosystems: challenges, potentials and solutions
Date and time of presentation: Monday 9th at 16.50h
 
Valentin H Klaus
added an update
We have applied for a special session on urban ecology at the upcoming GfÖ conference 2019 in the beautiful city of Münster, see https://www.gfoe-conference.de. If you want to learn about the questionnaire study, come to Münster! if you have something interesting to share about urban ecology, get part of our session! Feel free to contact Lena, leonine or myself to get presenter in the special session. Abstract submission starts 23. of April.
See you in Münster,
Valentin
 
Valentin H Klaus
added an update
Lena Neuenkamp from the University of Tartu presented outcomes of the questionnaire study at our session on "urban ecological restoration and species introduction in cities" at the conference of the Society for Ecological Restoration (European chapter) in Reykjavik, Iceland. Great talk, Lena! Great conference, colleagues from Iceland!
 
Valentin H Klaus
added an update
Talking about urban grasslands helps to make people aware of this overseen but highly interesting habitat.
Thanks to my colleague Volodymyr Trotsiuk for pictures from urban grasslands in Moscow! Anybody else out there who wants to post a picture from urban grasslands during her/his holidays?
 
Valentin H Klaus
added an update
The consortium is currently assessing first results of the questionnaire study - also to be presented soon at the BES-GFÖ-NECOV-EEF in Ghent in December 2017 (Wed. 13th of Dec, 12.15h, session "People and Nature"). Looking forward to let science and the public know about our research.
 
Valentin H Klaus
added a research item
We investigated urban grasslands to: (1) explore current patterns of plant species richness in high-maintenance vs low-maintenance grasslands, (2) investigate environmental drivers of plant species richness and composition, and (3) derive management recommendations and assess the potential for plant species introduction. Cities of Cologne (50°56′ N, 6°57′ E) and Münster (51°57′ N, 7°37′ E), North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. We performed plant inventories and measured soil and above-ground biomass characteristics in 100 urban grasslands in two cities differing in population size and environmental setting. The data set covered 35 high-maintenance grasslands, which are cut or mulched up to 14 times a year, and 65 low-maintenance grasslands with one to two cuts per year or sheep grazing. We used ANCOVA and DCA to assess drivers of vegetation composition and species richness. The floristic potential and options to restore biodiversity were assessed taking into account maintenance intensity and key abiotic variables of the grasslands using thresholds derived from published literature and our own data. High-maintenance urban grasslands harboured significantly lower plant species richness compared to low-maintenance grasslands. However, plant species richness of both grassland types turned out to be lower than that of comparable semi-natural agricultural grasslands. Floristic composition was primarily conditioned by maintenance intensity, but for plant species richness environmental factors such as soil pH, phosphorus availability and city were additionally important. Just eight of the 100 studied urban grasslands were found to be already valuable and species-rich, whereas the vast majority showed relatively low species richness but a high potential for species introduction. Apparently, most urban grasslands exhibited quite constrained plant species richness, suffering from high-maintenance intensity but probably also from dispersal and seed limitations. Nevertheless, as the majority of the studied grasslands showed favourable abiotic preconditions for higher plant species richness, restoration techniques using species introduction could be an easy and promising method to support grassland biodiversity in urban areas.
Jussi Lampinen
added a research item
Regularly mown short lawns with high maintenance costs and low species diversity are emblematic to urban green spaces. Converting a part of these lawns into less intensively managed meadows or grassland areas could both help foster biodiversity in urban areas and diminish costs of management. However, varying mindsets and attitudes as well as trade-offs between different uses of the lawns exist among urban residents, contributing to lack of acceptance and objection towards new ways of lawn management. We set out to study how acceptable meadow-like lawns are among urban residents and which factors explain the variation in the acceptance in Turku, south-western Finland.
Valentin H Klaus
added a research item
Urbanization is one of the most severe threats to biodiversity, so why should not we use green space in cities to counteract the biodiversity loss as much as possible? Urban grasslands provide a large number of social, financial, recreational, and environmental ecosystem services but can also support high biodiversity. In this article, I describe the importance of urban grasslands for (local) biodiversity and recommend strengthening restoration ecological research and efforts to optimize these novel ecosystems for conservation purposes. The management intensity of a high proportion of urban grasslands decreased over the last decades. However, species richness of these grasslands is still low, although there is now a great potential for higher plant, but also animal diversity. While communal authorities are interested in cost-efficient but at the same time biodiversity-friendly management of urban grasslands, a well-founded scientific basis for the restoration of urban grassland is still missing. I argue that besides all challenges associated with the restoration of urban habitats we should urgently proceed in the development of appropriate and effective restoration approaches and communicate knowledge gained to urban planners and stakeholders. Widening the scope of restoration ecological research to novel ecosystems such as urban grasslands is one of the most important recent challenges for biodiversity restoration and it gives urban habitats the significance they deserve.
Valentin H Klaus
added an update
Data from 19 cities in 9 countries has been collected!!!!
BARCELONA, Spain BERLIN, Germany BILBAO, Spain BRNO, Czech Republic CORDOBA, Spain DEBRECEN,Hungary LLEIDA, Spain MALAGA, Spain MÜNSTER, Germany OSNABRÜCK, Germany PALENCIA, Spain READING, UK ROME, Italy STOCKHOLM, Sweden TARTU, Estonia TOLEDO, Spain TÜBINGEN, Germany TURKU, Finnland VALENCIA, Spain
 
Valentin H Klaus
added an update
In approximately 20 European cities, we conducted face-to-face interviews to assess the urban population’s attitude towards specific aspects of urban nature. We used standardized photos to inquire for example their personal view on the aesthetics of long grass meadows versus short lawns and on options to increase the ecological potential of urban grasslands. Questions on the personal use of urban green areas were also included. Photos were shown to respondents to standardize the results obtained among cities.
We used different locations within a city, often 4 or 5 spots with 20 to 25 interviews at each spot. Spots were chosen from the following categories: in a park or urban green area / close to a park or urban green area / park or urban green area not in sight distance (as mentioned on the questionnaire). The questionnaire study was performed in 2016. Results are now compiled to be evaluated soon.
 
Valentin H Klaus
added a project goal
The aim of our study is to assess the attitudes of urban inhabitants towards an ecological management of urban habitats in Europe.
In northern Europe the focus is on urban mowing regimes of urban grasslands i.e. tall-growing urban grasslands in contrast to short ordinary lawns (a.k.a amenity grasslands), while the southern European version also includes questions on irrigation of urban grasslands.
Outcomes of our study may on the one hand show peoples attitude towards urban nature which might also acts as valuable habitat for wildlife, and on the other hand it will be of practical relevance for management decisions of urban green space, i.e. urban grasslands.