A lush green lawn is a key feature of many Australian homes, however a new study by researchers from The University of Western Australia and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences has found the benefits of lawns are far outweighed by their impact on the environment.
Researcher Dr Maria Ignatieva from UWA’s School of Design said lawns make up almost a half of the urban green areas globally.
“Although lawns produce oxygen and it has been argued they moderate urban temperatures, the environmental impact of high water consumption, the use of pesticides to maintain them and the greenhouse gas emitted when mowing them are significant and not good for the environment,” she said.
“In Perth, we already experience a huge water shortage and have a hot, dry climate. The annual volume of groundwater for irrigating public greenspaces and private open spaces is around 140 gigalitres. That would fill around 56,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.”
Professor Ignatieva said it was important to look at new alternatives to the traditional grass lawn in urban planning and think about how residential spaces and gardens could be made more sustainable.
“Traditionally, lawns were created purely for aesthetic reasons and in modern times, for recreation,” she said.
“However we need to rethink our view of them, and see them more as a creative opportunity to create a space that is visually attractive and functional whilst at the same time being environmentally friendly.”
Dr Ignatieva suggested redesigning public and private open spaces and doing away with conventional grassy lawns as the universal urban ground feature by replacing them with a variety of drought-resistant native plants, new generation of groundcovers or other materials such as mulch and stones.
“Native plants are designed to cope with Australia’s hot, dry conditions, and while being environmentally friendly they also require far less time and expense to maintain.”
The research was published in Science Magazine