Leaving grass unmown is great for wildlife! That’s why we want to encourage you not to mow. #NOMOW is a twitter campaign we run alongside our friends at River of Flowers – where, with your support, we encourage councils to transform road verges from mown monocultures to wildflower habitats. It’s a very simple concept, but one which could make a significant contribution to our communities and local wildlife populations…

We live in a time of intense global unrest and change. Society is living well beyond the carrying capacity of the planet, over 60% of ecosystems and their biodiversity are degrading, and extinction rates are as much as 1000 times there pre-human levels. We are also living in an increasingly urbanized and developed world. As of 2007 more than half of the world’s citizens live within cities. Cities affect biodiversity significantly, not just at the local level, but also through the extensive resources imported into cities. For example, even though cities cover just 2% of the landmass they consume over 70% of the resources.

As populations become more urbanised there is generally less access to wild nature. Opportunities to interact with nature may all to often be limited to gardens, window boxes, balconies or urban parks. But, we need to have regular interaction with nature.

Recent research shows children’s exposure to ‘nature’ is essential for physical and emotional development. And, in order to care about the environment, and how sustainably resources are produced, people need to experience nature regularly in order to develop an affinity with it. It is this, in turn that leads to environmental awareness.  As people have less access to nature in urban settings, there are two options available: either take people to nature or bring nature into the cities. For us, the only sensible option is to bring wild, native nature, to the cities.

Bringing and integrating nature within cities creates sustainable and livable urban environments, and can help create the sustainable behaviors we need in order to reverse the negative impacts seen on ecosystems outside of cities. We need to begin by creating complex city spaces that embrace nature and wildness. Cities should have designated areas with space for wildflowers, food production and natural play. And of course, cities don’t exist in isolation; they are connected to wider ecosystems. By promoting quality green space within cities, biodiversity can be protected and enhanced and brought closer to people.  Within cities, land such as railway edges and road verges connect green spaces, creating corridors between them and enhancing their value to plants and wildlife.  Promoting natural vegetation can also have other useful consequences. For example, strengthening resistance to floods and droughts, and acting as reserves for pollinating insects like bees, which are so important for food production.

Ensuring vegetation specifically matches an area can even reduce maintenance costs. For instance a particularly dry area can be planted with species that flourish in dry surroundings, bringing with them animal species belonging to dry areas as well. Local vegetation often re-seeds naturally or lives for several years, requiring little human attendance or input of water and fertilisers, and therefore cutting council costs. Complex plant species assemblages further improve soil health and capacity to absorb flood water as well as filtering that water. Quality green space, especially with trees, absorb carbon as plants grow larger, reducing green house gases and filtering polluted air.

Road verges are also an ideal way of connecting habitats of pristine ecosystems with pockets of urban biodiversity. In pristine areas our road verges represent an important remnant of our native grassland and wildflower habitats, which have suffered catastrophic losses over the last century. Our verges also act as important buffers to some of the most impoverished areas, be they six lane motorways or intensively farmed fields. And, importantly, along with railway edges, road verges are the single most viewed habitat in the country, giving millions of people every day contact with changing seasons, county specific habitats and colours of the countryside.

Managed correctly, our road verges can support a remarkably diverse collection of species. The good news is that appropriate management is often about doing less, allowing the verge to develop and plants to set seed before cutting takes place. Adding appropriate wildflowers in the city is a simple task, which can pay environmental and social dividends for years to come.

Why not find out more about what you can do to promote wildflowers on road verges by supporting and visiting our #nomow web page.