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Urban meadows as an alternative to short mown grassland: Effects of composition and height on biodiversity

Norton, Briony A; Bending, Gary D; Clark, Rachel; Corstanje, Ron; Dunnett, Nigel; Evans, Karl L; Grafius, Darren; Gravestock, Emily; Grice, Samuel M; Harris, Jim A; Hilton, Sally; Hoyle, Helen; Lim, Edward; Mercer, Theresa G; Pawlett, Mark; Pescott, Oliver L; Richards, J. Paul; Southon, Georgina E; Warren, Philip H

Authors

Briony A Norton

Gary D Bending

Rachel Clark

Ron Corstanje

Nigel Dunnett

Karl L Evans

Darren Grafius

Emily Gravestock

Samuel M Grice

Jim A Harris

Sally Hilton

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Helen Hoyle Helen.Hoyle@uwe.ac.uk
Senior Lecturer in Healthy Built Environments

Edward Lim

Theresa G Mercer

Mark Pawlett

Oliver L Pescott

J. Paul Richards

Georgina E Southon

Philip H Warren



Abstract

There are increasing calls to provide greenspace in urban areas, yet the ecological quality, as well as quantity, of greenspace is important. Short mown grassland designed for recreational use is the dominant form of urban greenspace in temperate regions but requires considerable maintenance and typically provides limited habitat value for most taxa. Alternatives are increasingly proposed, but the biodiversity potential of these is not well understood. In a replicated experiment across six public urban greenspaces we used nine different perennial meadow plantings to quantify the relative roles of floristic diversity and height of sown meadows on the richness and composition of three taxonomic groups – plants, invertebrates and soil microbes. We found that all meadow treatments were colonised by plant species not sown in the plots, suggesting that establishing sown meadows does not preclude further locally determined grassland development if management is appropriate. Colonising species were rarer in taller and more diverse plots, indicating competition may limit invasion rates. Urban meadow treatments contained invertebrate and microbial communities that differed from mown grassland. Invertebrate taxa responded to changes in both height and richness of meadow vegetation, but most orders were more abundant where vegetation height was longer than mown grassland. Order richness also increased in longer vegetation and Coleoptera family richness increased with plant diversity in summer. Microbial community composition seems sensitive to plant species composition at the soil surface (0–10 cm), but in deeper soils (11–20 cm) community variation was most responsive to plant height, with bacteria and fungi responding differently. In addition to improving local residents’ satisfaction, native perennial meadow plantings can produce biologically diverse grasslands that support richer and more abundant invertebrate communities, and restructured plant, invertebrate and soil microbial communities compared with short mown grassland. Our results suggest that diversification of urban greenspace by planting urban meadows in place of some mown amenity grassland is likely to generate substantial biodiversity benefits, with a mosaic of meadow types likely to maximise such benefits.

Citation

Norton, B. A., Bending, G. D., Clark, R., Corstanje, R., Dunnett, N., Evans, K. L., …Warren, P. H. (2019). Urban meadows as an alternative to short mown grassland: Effects of composition and height on biodiversity. Ecological Applications, 29(6), https://doi.org/10.1002/eap.1946

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 21, 2019
Online Publication Date Jun 7, 2019
Publication Date Sep 1, 2019
Deposit Date Jun 20, 2019
Journal Ecological Applications
Print ISSN 1051-0761
Electronic ISSN 1939-5582
Publisher Ecological Society of America
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 29
Issue 6
Article Number e01946
DOI https://doi.org/10.1002/eap.1946
Keywords urban ecology, urban parks, microbial diversity, beetles, nitrogen, carbon, conservation planning, overwintering, green infrastructure, insects, plant richness
Public URL https://uwe-repository.worktribe.com/output/1493083
Publisher URL https://doi.org/10.1002/eap.1946
Additional Information Additional Information : Copyright by the Ecological Society of America - Norton, B. A., Bending, G. D., Clark, R., Corstanje, R., Dunnett, N., Evans, K. L., Grafius, D., Gravestock, E., Grice, S. M., Harris, J. A., Hilton, S., Hoyle, H., Lim, E., Mercer, T. G., Pawlett, M., Pescott, O. L., Richards, J. P., Southon, G. E. and Warren, P. H. (2019) Urban meadows as an alternative to short mown grassland: Effects of composition and height on biodiversity. Ecological Applications. ISSN 0051-0761.

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Copyright Statement
© 2019 The Authors. Ecological Applications published byWiley Periodicals, Inc. on behalf of Ecological Society of America.
This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.







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