Southon G E, Jorgensen A, Dunnett N, Hoyle H, Evans K L (2017), Biodiverse perennial meadows have aesthetic value and increase residents’ perceptions of site quality in urban green-space.
Landscape and Urban Planning, 158: 105–118. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.landurbplan.2016.08.003
We used photo-elicitation studies and a controlled perennial meadow creation experiment at ten urban green-spaces in southern England (five experimental sites and five control sites) to assess green-space visitors’ responses to urban meadows. Multiple meadows, which varied in their structural diversity (height) and plant species richness, were created at each experimental site. Photo elicitation demonstrated that meadows were generally preferred to herbaceous borders and formal bedding planting. Moreover, our experimental meadows had higher preference scores than a treatment that replicated mown amenity grassland, and meadow creation improved site quality and appreciation across a wide range of people. Meadows that contained more plant species and some structural diversity (i.e. were tall or of medium height) were most preferred. The magnitude of these preferences was lower amongst people that used the sites the most, probably due to a strong attachment to the site, i.e. sense of place. People with greater eco-centricity (i.e. those who used the countryside more frequently, had greater ability to identify plant species and exhibited more support for conservation) responded more positively to meadow vegetation. Crucially a wide range of respondents was willing to tolerate the appearance of meadows outside the flowering season, especially when provided with information on their biodiversity and aesthetic benefits and potential cost savings (from reduced cutting frequencies). Re-designing urban green-spaces and parks through the creation of species rich meadows can provide a win–win strategy for biodiversity and people, and potentially improve connections between the two.