The intensive development of urban areas and road networks has contributed to significant changes in landscape structure and ecosystem functioning around the world. There are many negative effects of these changes, among others, fragmentation and isolation of natural habitats, formation of urban heat islands, light pollution, anthropogenization of soil, deterioration of water relations, loss of biodiversity, etc. As the climate warms up, the impact of negative phenomena will increase, significantly affecting the quality of life of urban residents. We can counteract this by taking conscious measures in cooperation with various communities and based on the result of thorough scientific research. Nature can assist us in these efforts by providing “ecosystem services” – arrange of states and processes that positively affect the human habitat. Examples of such services include water retention, oxygen production and carbon dioxide absorption or pollution capture. It is, therefore, worth ensuring that our cities have as many high-quality green spaces as possible, the services of which will compensate for the impact of negative phenomena, such as episodes of high temperatures and intense drought. One of the measures that can contribute to improving the quality of the natural component of cities is to reduce the mowing of roadside lawns to the necessary minimum, and as a result, transform these inherently poor communities into well-functioning and eye-pleasing ecosystems of “floral urban meadows.” Such meadows will play an important role in the urban landscape – they will not only become biodiversity strongholds, which are lacking in urban areas, but will also perform a number of important functions: regulatory, protective, sheltering, aesthetic, etc., that are beneficial from the point of view of human well-being. Increasing the acreage of urban meadows should therefore be seen as part of sustainable urban development – a process in which clean environment and the health of residents are indispensable.

The scientific part of the project will be a field experiment, in which a dozen research sites located in the roadside lawn zones of Katowice and Kraków will be subjected to three mowing regimes: intensive (six times per growing season), extensive (three times per growing season) and biocenotic (once at the end of the growing season), for two years. Within these sites, a number of factors will be studied: vegetation (its species composition, species richness, biomass status, etc.), soil (in particular such parameters as moisture content, temperature, nutrient content, level of contamination by road salt, heavy metals, petroleum substances, etc.), and microbial activity (including soil enzyme concentration, microorganism biomass and diversity, the structure of soil bacterial and fungal communities). Vegetation and soil will be sampled multiple times during the growing season and at different distances from roadways (sites will be located along roads with heavy traffic), which will allow us to study the dynamics of ecosystem processes under varying levels of chemical stress (pollution).
The results of the scientific part of the project will be used to verify the standards of maintenance of urban green areas used to date. In cooperation with practitioners, including urban greenery workers from Katowice and Kraków, specific and viable recommendations on the frequency of mowing roadside lawns will be established. They will be aimed at transforming roadside lawns into highly functioning ecological systems, in order to increase the quality of the urban environment and the comfort of residents.
The proposed solutions will be consulted with the cities’ residents. The consultations will take the form of educational workshops, lectures, and various activities to present the idea of the project, broaden the knowledge of how urban ecosystems function, and promote responsibility for the natural environment.

We will investigate the benefits of reducing the frequency of mowing roadside lawns at different levels of ecosystem functioning

We will develop new standards for mowing roadside lawns, promoting high-functioning ecological systems

We will encourage city residents to observe the nature around them and take care of it, so nature can pay them back

We will develop a model of cooperation between different groups – scientists, practitioners, policymakers, activists, entrepreneurs, which will allow them to work in harmony for the benefit of nature

„From urban lawns to urban meadows”

Logo of University of Silesia in Katowice
Logo of Pani Łąka shop
Logo of Kraków Municipal Greenspace Authority
Logo of Sendzimir Foundation
Logo of Katowice Municipal Greenspace Authority
Logo of Katowice
Logo of Institute of Botany Polish Academy of Sciences
Logo of Metropolia Krakowska association

The project is financed from the Polish state budget under the Ministry of Education and Science program called “Science for Society” for 2023-2025, project number NdS/550099/2022/2023, project value PLN 1070 374.

Logo of the program of the Minister of Education and Science entitled Nauka dla Społeczeństwa
Logo of Ministry of Education and Science