Bratislava turns lawns into meadows

Flower-rich urban meadows cope better with heat, retain moisture and protect biodiversity.

Grassland in Bratislava's borough of PetržalkaGrassland in Bratislava's borough of Petržalka (Source: Sme)

Bratislava is turning its lawns, grasslands and other areas into flower-rich meadows. The city council has already selected 60 areas where it will change the mowing regime. Andrej Kovarik, plenipotentiary of the Bratislava mayor for greenery and the environment, claims that such meadows can be up to 20 degrees Celsius cooler than ordinary mowed lawns, allowing them to retain moisture, discourage the growth of allergy-causing species and protect biodiversity, the TASR newswire reported.

The city council considers the establishment of flower-rich meadows directly in the city, including housing estates and courtyards, vital to the adaptation of the city to climate change.

“Such areas are significantly less overheated and the loss of moisture from these surfaces is considerably slower,” explained Kovarik in a video on social networks. “It’s a solution that will reduce the loss of biodiversity in cities.”

Flower-rich urban meadows are not unmaintained areas, explains the city council. Instead, they are trimmed differently than classic lawns, i.e. only once or twice a year according to species composition, rather than around six times a year. This way flowering plant species will gradually push away and replace grass species that cause allergies.

“Many are worried about the allergens that such areas could produce, but this is exactly the mechanism that leads to a reduction in the number of species that cause allergies,” said Kovarik.

60 selected areas

The first urban meadow of this kind was created in the city borough of Dúbravka. In the coming weeks flower-rich meadows should be launched in 60 other areas in the boroughs of Dúbravka, Karlova Ves, Staré Mesto (Old Town), Nové Mesto and Petržalka. The latter would like to start sowing their first meadow in the autumn and then another in the spring. The borough of Ružinov has already selected its first seven sites as well.

Medical experts do not like the idea

Some medical experts consider the idea of ​​having meadows in cities as nice but unsuitable. Immuno-allergologist Martin Hrubiško of the Oncological Institute of St Elizabeth claims that meadows in the city would never be like meadows in the Alps or the Tatras and be free of allergens, rodents or waste.

“The city is an absolutely artificial terrain in terms of nature, and without human intervention, no meadow will grow in the city,” Hrubiško said at a press conference in July. “Where the urban areas are surrounded by buildings, where the moisture-temperature ratio is incomparable with the natural landscape, no proper meadow will ever grow.”

He warns that invasive weeds are able to survive unnatural conditions such as extreme heat or drought.

“Plants such as mugwort, ambrosia or prince’s feather will seed themselves,” said Hrubiško. “And these are sources of pollen.”

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