Gardens and the environmentAlison Marsden
Sometimes it seems that you can hardly read or listen to the news without hearing statistics about the environment, from the loss of insect populations, destruction of rain forests to the number of species approaching extinction. But I want you to think about a different statistic and this one is part of the solution not the problem. However, that does not mean that everything in the natural world is rosy. In order to continue the benefits that humanity receives from nature 30% of our land needs to be “good quality habitat” for plants, wildlife and support a healthy eco-system. So this is what is left between all the buildings, roads, airports and intensive agriculture. We need the green spaces where rainfall is absorbed into the ground, rivers overflow into traditional water meadows, trees mature and pollinating insects thrive.
How serious is this? Readers will know that I extol the wellbeing benefits of gardens and green spaces but here we are talking about vital resources. The natural environment provides clean air, water, materials and energy, plus carbon storage, coastal and river flood defences and trees in cities reduce high summer temperatures.
Where do gardens enter the equation? Well when you consider that there are more acres of garden than nature reserves in the UK and that gardens are by definition scattered through urban areas, it is clear that gardens have a great deal to offer. Indeed they will be vital if we are to maintain the balance and benefits that nature gives us. Urban gardens act like stepping stones for animals to move through towns and for migrating birds. Rural gardens are often richer in wildlife than surrounding arable fields. All garden plants, whether native or exotic, exchange carbon dioxide for oxygen. One example is the impact of front gardens being paved for parking: rainwater is not absorbed into the ground and either increases local flooding or is lost into storm drains. The answer is not to ban anything but permeable paving solutions and a small area of planting seem like a reasonable compromise.
However small your garden, keeping it green and growing is doing us all a favour!
Happy Gardening from Alison