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.
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.
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.
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.
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.