Amenity grassland in many of our parks, playing fields, and urban green spaces is frequently mown for sports and play activities and for a ‘clean’ look. It may be neat and tidy but it could be so much more.
By varying the ways in which grassland areas are managed, public parks and green spaces can support more biodiversity and provide for more public interest and enjoyment.
Grass provides somewhere for wildlife to forage, feed, and thrive.
Many species of invertebrates over-winter on grass as eggs, pupae or larvae before completing their life cycles. Grass is also food for the larvae of some invertebrates including types of butterflies and moths.
Keeping grass a little longer helps retain moisture which benefits many invertebrates such as worms, beetles, grasshoppers and spiders, living at or just below the soil surface.
Longer grass also allows plants to grow and flower and this provides nectar for insects such as bees, butterflies and hoverflies, and seeds for mammals and birds.
Some birds such, as starlings and thrushes that feed on soil invertebrates, prefer shorter grass so they can easily find food and detect approaching predators. Hedgehogs also forage on shorter grass for their prey.
House sparrows and finches however prefer areas with longer grass where there are more invertebrates and seeds.
Small mammals such as voles forage in longer grass for seeds and use it as shelter and cover. In turn these attract birds of prey and owls.
Although amenity grassland is not a priority habitat in the usual sense. it can be managed to benefit biodiversity. Amenity grassland is therefore included in this Biodiversity Action Plan.
Phase 1 habitat surveys record amenity grassland as ‘amenity grassland’ under a broader heading of cultivated ground.
Amenity grassland ‘improved’ by the use of fertilisers and possible reseeding is likely to include copious perennial rye-grass and little of botanical interest.
However this does not need to be the case.
Grass found in urban green sites is often heavily managed and regularly mown, but areas of longer grass are a very valuable habitat.
Reducing the number of cuts per year of areas of amenity grassland will benefit wildlife.
Much of the content of this section of the Biodiversity Plan has been derived from work undertaken in the Dearne Valley NIA programme and the advice given by John Day, RSPB Land Management Adviser.
Links to advice sheets published by the RSPB are given later.
Our thanks are due to the RSPB for their contribution.