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Our surroundings

We are working to increase the biodiversity in the surroundings of the Biology Department and the North Campus area in Lund. There are already more flowers.

A meadow with grass and buildings in the background. Photo
We can already see results after three years. Photo: Honor C. Prentice

We are working together with our “landlord”, Akademiska Hus, to improve the habitat quality and promote the biodiversity in our surroundings. Our goal is to make long-term changes to the campus management routines in a way that will increase the variety of habitats, provide food plants for a range of insects and other organisms, and lead to a higher diversity of species. In particular, we have changed the way in which large areas of grass lawn are managed, with much of the campus area now mown and raked off once a year – allowing the gradual development of taller, meadow vegetation.

We started the project in 2019 and we can already see results. Plant species such as lady’s bedstraw and ox-eye daisy have started to flower in the young meadows and butterflies such as the meadow brown, the ringlet and the common blue have also moved in.

A meadow with cowslips. Photo.
Scything and twice-yearly raking lead to spectacular flowering of cowslips near to the Ecology Building. Photo: Honor C. Prentice

How we manage the developing “meadows”

In order for the grass lawns to develop into young meadows, we need to reduce the levels of nutrients in the soil. We do this by mowing the tall grass once a year and immediately removing the hay. The successive reduction of soil nutrients over the years will gradually lead to conditions that are more favourable for nutrient-intolerant meadow plants.

  • Over much of the campus area, the grass is not cut during the summer
  • The tall grass is mown in August (scything, mechanical mowing and a horse-drawn mower)
  • The cut grass is immediately removed so that the nutrients do not return to the soil
  • One of the smaller areas is also raked off in the spring to remove leaves and dead biomass
Some people with rakes. Photo.
Raking (“fagning”) in the spring aerates the vegetation and removes nutrients. Photo: Honor C. Prentice

Examples of other management actions

  • We create fauna heaps using stacks of logs and branches
  • We have planted sallow (Salix) bushes to provide pollen and nectar for early-flying insects
  • We have set up nest boxes for starlings and smaller birds
  • We have made insect hotels in logs
  • We have created an open sand-bed where bees and wasps can build nests
Two horses are pulling a mower. Photo.
Reviving old traditions. Photo: Inger Henrekson Ekström

Despite the advantages for biodiversity it’s not practical to convert all the lawns on the campus to ”meadows”. We assessed which areas of the campus were important for recreation. There the grass lawns are now mown throughout the summer, but only when needed – not at a fixed interval. Mowing starts later in the spring, to allow plants like dandelions and daisies to flower. The meadow areas are cut in August, just before they are needed for student activities before the start of term.

We avoid complaints like “messy” or “uncared for” by having regularly cut borders around the areas of long grass, and by putting up notices that explain that the long grass is good for biodiversity.

Behind the Ecology Building, we have a smaller meadow area that we cut each autumn using scythes. We arrange a mowing day each autumn and everybody in the Department of Biology is welcome to take part and try their hand at scything and help with the raking. The contractors who deal with the practical campus management join in and get a chance discuss traditional meadow management and talk to ecologists. In the spring, we spend an afternoon raking off (“fagning”) the dead leaves and dead grass.

Some people with scytes and rakes. Photo.
Once a year, we scythe and rake the Ecology meadow together. Photo: Honor C. Prentice

If you want to learn more about the background to the project and how it was initiated, you can visit Akademiska Hus webbplats (på svenska)