Mowing urban lawns less intensely increases biodiversity, saves money and reduces pests

Image of lawns.

(British Ecological Society) The issue with regular lawn mowing is that it favors grasses, which grow from that base of the plant, and low growing species like dandelion and clover. Other species that have their growing tips or flowering stems regularly removed by mowing can’t compete. Allowing plant diversity in urban lawns to increase has the knock-on effect of increasing the diversity of other organisms such as pollinators and herbivores. Pest species, on the other hand, benefitted from more intense lawn mowing.

Pervasive human-driven decline of life on Earth points to the need for transformative change

Chart showing different categories of nature's contributions assessed.

(Science) Although previous large-scale environmental assessments have documented how human actions have been driving biodiversity loss and ecosystem deterioration, a recent global assessment provides an interdisciplinary and comprehensive synthesis of the evidence. It paints the clearest picture yet of how, despite humanity’s profound dependence on nature, we are altering it at a truly planetary scale, with impacts that are distributed very unequally around the world and among sectors of society. Pollination and seed dispersal is one of the 18 categories that were assessed – and it showed a consistent downward trend over the past 50 years.

Urban growth causes more biodiversity loss outside of cities

Image of heavy machinery doing demolition work.

(iDiv) By 2030, more than 2 billion additional people are expected to be living in cities, a pace of urban growth that is the equivalent to building a city the size of New York City every six weeks. While the direct effects of urban expansion on biodiversity has been studied extensively, the indirect effect have not. For example, researchers estimate that just the area required to feed the world’s cities is 36 times greater than the urban area of cities themselves. “In other words, the food urban dwellers eat turns out to be more important for global biodiversity than the direct environmental impact of the urban areas.”

Bee efficiency boosts diversified farming

Image of honey bee on pink flowers.

(Washington State University) The more diverse a farm’s plant population, the more beneficial it is for bee pollinators, and the more efficiently those pollinators work. “People want a silver bullet crop that they can plant that will bring in more pollinators, but that idea just wasn’t supported by our data. Having a variety, especially if they’re rare in a region, is the best way to increase pollinators… That means farmers can increase bee visits to their farm without adding more bees.”

A century later, plant biodiversity struggles in wake of agricultural abandonment

Aerial view of trees and fields.

(University of Minnesota) Researchers compared plots of abandoned farmland to nearby land that has not been significantly impacted by human activity. They found that one year after abandonment, the fields had, on average, 38 percent of the plant diversity and 34 percent of the plant productivity for the land that was never plowed; 91 years after abandonment, the fields still had only 73 percent of the plant diversity and 53 percent of the plant productivity.

New collection showcases cutting-edge techniques in insect morphology and systematics

Image of bee collection.

(EurekAlert/Entomological Society of America) While the field of morphology is centuries old, the last two decades have brought incredible leaps forward through the emergence of new technologies and genetic research methods. And the impact of these advances has been revolutionary for the scientists working to untangle the vast biodiversity and evolutionary paths of the world of insects.