Adapted from: Thriving Ecosystems by the Lawn Institute
We all know that a green lawn looks great in our backyard and feels even better under our feet when relaxing with friends and family. But lawn is more than just an aesthetically pleasing place to enjoy in our homes. It’s also a living, breathing ecosystem, that supports a whole host of un-seen life. From plant and soil processes to arthropods and micro-organisms, grass lawns sustain a wide range of life in urban and suburban neighbourhoods all over the world.
Everyone knows the process of grass (and all plants for that matter) capturing carbon dioxide and converting it into oxygen. But did you know that the benefits of carbon capture in lawns doesn’t stop there? As carbon is deposited into the soil, it contributes to soil organic carbon, and this can have a huge influence on ecosystem sustainability, soil fertility and soil structure. Soil organic carbon has been found to improve soil structure and aggregation, creates pore space for water and oxygen, and improves run off capture.
The soil microbiome is made up of a complex network of micro-organisms including bacteria, fungi, and single-celled organisms called archaea and recent research has shown that grass lawns enhance soil microbial diversity when compared to bare soil and it helps regulate microbial community composition. These micro-organisms are vital to soil health and sustainability and are supported by the high carbon sequestration rates of the turf they flourish under.
Not only this, but healthy soil and lawn acts as the perfect habitat for a range of soil arthropods and micro-organisms.
Researchers have found that managed lawns can contain up to 52 different arthropod families, with over half of these representing beneficial insects. In Australia, researchers compared arthropod species found in lawns, leaf litter, woodchips, and bare ground over a 6-week period. They found that grass plots had the greatest diversity of both ants and beetles on 5 of the 6 sampling dates and had the greatest diversity at the taxonomic level order on half of the sampling dates. They also found 21 orders of arthropods in just 4 lawns!!
In fact, even lawns that are intensely managed have been found to support a diverse range of beneficial fauna, including ants who are an important provider of ecosystem services– so there is no excuse not to have that manicured lawn of your dreams!!