Wildflowers could surge and thrive on roadside verges and lawns in parks as some councils in the UK have stopped mowing such spaces during the covid-19 pandemic, according to conservation charity, Plantlife.
Plantlife believes that less spring verge cutting, “a silver lining to the coronavirus crisis”, will benefit wild flowers and help tackle the climate emergency.
Research conducted by Plantlife suggests that municipal mowing has been among the first activities to be cut under the covid-19 crisis due to staff shortages including sickness or self-isolating, and to save money as budgets are squeezed.
A search of local authority websites and social media suggested that more councils are now being jolted into a policy change so they can re-deploy ground staff to services such as emptying bins, Plantlife told BBC News.
Dr Trevor Dines, Plantlife’s Botanical Specialist, said: “An unintended but understandable consequence of lockdown may be reduced mowing that has the potential to benefit wild plants and the bees, butterflies, birds, bats and bugs that depend on them for survival.”
Over 700 species of wildflowers grow on roadside verges, nearly 45% of the UK’s total flora. Last year, Plantlife launched best practice management guidelines to help all councils get cutting right and less often.
New research by Plantlife reveals that less and later verge cutting regimes do not only benefit wildlife and people’s wellbeing but also contributes to the urgent need to address the climate emergency.
Plantlife found that cutting the 500,489 kilometres of rural road verge four times a year generates 45,508 tonnes of CO2 in emissions from the engines of tractor mowers (which can generate ten times the emissions of passenger cars). The emissions generated by this cutting regime is equivalent to 26,340 barrels of oil consumed; 5,641 tonnes of coal burned; and 1,450,717,056 charges of a smartphone.
Almost 300 local authorities have declared a climate emergency and Plantlife is calling on all councils to cut “superfluous cutting” for good to bring down emissions from tractor mowers. Adopting Plantlife’s “twice is nice” guidelines could see emissions reduced by 22,754 tonnes of CO2.
Plantlife’s Chief Executive, Ian Dunn said: “Road verges were once considered to be inconsequential litter-strewn ‘edgelands’ that had little value to wildlife. But thanks in part to Plantlife’s energetic campaign, they are increasingly recognised as crucial biodiversity corridors that support a floral tapestry of wild flowers and the wealth of wildlife they underpin.
“As we stay home to stay safe in these strange and difficult times an increasing number of people are discovering anew the beauty on their doorsteps and finding much solace in nature; those exercising daily on quiet lanes are recognising that well managed road verges provide an uplifting and heartening pop of vibrant colour that can lift even the weariest soul.”
Image Source: Plantlife
Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She writes about lifestyle including sustainable and green living. She also offers content services to businesses and individuals at Rosamedea.com