Verge managing experiments in the UK

Currently in the UK, road verges are cut and the grass is left on the verge, in contrast to many other European countries where the grass is cut and collected. This means that large volumes of grass that could possibly be used as a feedstock for energy and products simply goes to waste.  Research has also shown that, if grass is cut and removed, biodiversity - especially of flowers and pollinators  - increases. This is important as the number of pollinators have been in sharp decline in recent years leading to concerns over an ecosystem crash.

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Working with the Kent Wildlife Trust and Kent County Council, senior lecturer Dr Naomi Rintoul and postdoctoral research fellow Dr Hannah Scott, from Canterbury Christ Church University, under the umbrella of the Grassification project, are analysing the biodiversity of roadside nature reserves. Through their engagement with stakeholders, it is hoped that the management of the verge will be changed to a cut and collect system in the near future and the effect of this change on biodiversity can be monitored.

“As greenfield land is increasingly being used for housing and other business ventures, roadside grass  verges are becoming important havens for wildlife, contributing significantly to the ecology of an area. By changing to a cut and collect regime, we reduce the nutrient levels within the soil and decrease the competition from grass and other nutrient-loving plants that dominate the verge. Wildflowers can then compete, grow and flourish. Not only could we increase the biodiversity of the area, which is beneficial to wildlife and lifts the spirits of commuters as they drive past, but we could use the grass clippings for other useful purposes such as making energy in anaerobic digestion plants or even making furniture! We aim to set up scientific studies on the road verges so we can statistically analyse the effect of the two regimes – cut and leave/cut and collect - on plant and insect biodiversity over the next few years.” – says Dr Hannah Scott.

 

Dr Naomi Rintoul commented “Canterbury Christ Church has a strong ecology research group which carries out research across Kent and beyond. We believe that this type of future-focussed research is essential to ensure that the UK meets its climate change and biodiversity targets”.

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