Amenity Grassland and Wildlife Habitats
Our nation’s wildlife is often restricted to semi-natural habitats. It can be difficult for many species to prosper when these sites are isolated and the connections between them, which act as wildlife corridors, have been lost.
It is crucial that urban development and the impact of intensive farming are offset by the preservation and creation of wildlife habitats. It is equally important that there are wildlife corridors which enable the various species to disperse.
Unlikely Areas for Wildlife
Wildlife habitats can be established in what might appear to be unlikely locations. Sports fields and other amenity grasslands may not be the first places which spring to mind when you think about conservation but they offer great potential for many species.
It is now recognised that such greenspaces can be managed to enhance biodiversity and that a useful side effect of this strategy is often an improvement to the quality of life of local people. Amenity grassland can be better managed to provide small but important habitats and also stepping stones for wildlife between adjacent habitats.
Intensively Managed Grassland
Unfortunately, the playing fields themselves are problematic for biodiversity. The grass will have been treated for sports use and will have been fertilised. Mowing regimes are often incompatible with wildlife and the management and treatment of the grass precludes the growth of many useful plant species. However, whilst the intensively managed grassland may dominate the site, there is often room for areas of biodiversity beyond the playing fields.
Measures for Biodiversity
The playing fields may be bordered by woods, scrub, hedgerows and ponds which should be protected and maintained to help wildlife to prosper. These features may have become isolated from each other, but measures can be implemented to re-establish connections between them:
- Leaving areas of grass adjacent to playing fields unmown.
- Planting small areas with wild flower species.
- Mowing paths in areas of longer grass rather than using hard landscaping materials to create them.
Even the playing fields themselves will have retained a significant biomass of soil fauna including earthworms and leatherjackets. The adjacent areas could already be providing nesting sites for birds and feeding territory for badgers and amphibians. Amenity grassland is of value to a limited number of species and can be so much more with a carefully evolved plan targeting biodiversity.
The Aesthetics of Amenity Grassland
Naturally, aesthetics are always a concern. The thought of carefully manicured grass surrounded by paved walkways and equally manicured perimeters may initially be a pleasing one. There is often an almost overwhelming urge to foster neatness and order in public spaces. But this won’t help the wildlife and doesn’t do much to help the people who visit either!
Nature and Local People
Wildlife habitats offer considerable potential for local people to become more engaged with nature, to learn more about the flora and fauna and to take part in enjoyable activities. If just a few areas within sporting amenities are managed to cater to the needs of wildlife, the fascinating creatures that appear will engender the feel-good factor. These areas also enable artists to study and paint the wildlife, bird watchers to get more from their hobby and provide conservation groups with valuable locations in which to host educational activities.
Hopefully you are now seeing your local football pitch or cricket pitch in a whole new light!