A new study examining the effects of planting a wildflower meadow in the historic grounds of King’s College, Cambridge, has demonstrated its benefits to local biodiversity and climate change mitigation.
The study, led by King’s Research Fellow Dr. Cicely Marshall, found that establishing the meadow had made a considerable impact to the wildlife value of the land, while reducing the greenhouse gas emissions associated with its upkeep.
Marshall and her colleagues, among them three King’s undergraduate students, conducted biodiversity surveys over three years to compare the species richness, abundance and composition supported by the meadow and adjacent lawn.
They found that, in spite of its small size, the wildflower meadow supported three times as many species of plants, spiders and bugs, including 14 species with conservation designations.
Terrestrial invertebrate biomass was found to be 25 times higher in the meadow, with bat activity over the meadow also being three times higher than over the remaining lawn.
The study is published May 23 in the journal Ecological Solutions and Evidence.
As well as looking at the benefits to biodiversity, Marshall and her colleagues modeled the impact of the meadow on climate change mitigation efforts, by assessing the changes in reflectivity, soil carbon sequestration, and emissions associated with its maintenance.
The reduced maintenance and fertilization associated with the meadow was found to save an estimated 1.36 tons CO2-e per hectare per year when compared with the grass lawn.
Surface reflectance increased by more than 25%, contributing to a reduced urban heat island effect, with the meadow more likely to tolerate an intensified drought regime.