Thriving Ecosystems

There is another lawn “life” that exists right beneath your feet. This life just happens to be going on quietly underground while families and kids enjoy all that grass lawns have to offer on the surface.

Yes, there is a living, thriving, and breathing abundance of life that lawns support just beneath the surface. From plant and soil processes to arthropods and micro-organisms, grass lawns sustain a wide range of life in urban and suburban neighborhoods all over the world.

We all know the process of plants capturing atmospheric carbon dioxide and converting it into fresh oxygen, but the benefits of carbon capture by lawns do not stop there. As carbon is deposited into the soil, it contributes to soil organic carbon and can have a profound influence on ecosystem sustainability, soil fertility, and soil structure. Urban and suburban cities in many areas of the world are often developed on former agricultural land. As neighborhoods and communities are developed, hundreds of years of organic carbon deposited by plants are stripped off during construction practices so that homes and roads can be built onto the underlying mineral subsoils. Planting grass lawns, trees, shrubs, and other plants is the most effective way to return these disturbed soils into a more native state. The carbon deposited by these plants improves soil structure and aggregation, creates pore space for water and oxygen, and improves runoff capture, but did you also know that it serves as a habitat for a thriving system of soil arthropods and micro-organisms? Check out some of the highlights from recent scientific research below!

Soil Arthropods Beneath Lawns

  • Managed lawns can host as many as 52 different arthropod families, with over half of them representing beneficial insects such as predators and parasitoids.
  • Researchers in the United States found over 330,000 arthropods in 20 home lawns within just a 3-month sampling period.
  • Researchers in Australia evaluated arthropod species found in lawns, leaf litter, woodchips, and bare ground over a 6-week period and found that grass plots had the greatest diversity of both ants and beetles on 5 of the 6 sampling dates and had the greatest diversity at the taxonomic level order on half of the sampling dates. They also found 21 orders of arthropods in just 4 lawns.
  • Researchers in Canada have found that lawn ecosystems made up of perennial grass species, even when intensively managed, support a diverse fauna of arthropods including herbivores, natural enemies and decomposers. In just one study, researchers found a diverse population of 17 species, 10 genera, and 7 tribes present in lawns and also showed that as lawns mature, there are up to 6 times the number of natural enemies when compared to new lawns.
  • Ants are important providers of ecosystem services and are abundant and diverse in managed lawns.
  • Up to 28 genera of nematodes can be found in home lawns including bacterivores, predators, omnivores, and plant parasites.

Soil Microbiome Beneath Lawns

  • The soil microbiome is made up of a complex network of micro-organisms including bacteria, fungi, and single-celled organisms called archaea and recent research has shown that grass lawns enhance soil microbial diversity when compared to bare soil and it helps regulate microbial community composition.
  • Lawn establishment enhances soil microbial diversity compared to adjacent bare soils and also modulates the microbial community composition.
  • These micro-organisms are vital to soil health and sustainability and are supported by the high carbon sequestration rates of the turf they flourish under.
  • Microbial diversity remains relatively stable during lawn development and is comparable to the diversity in other plant systems.
  • Almost all known bacterial and fungal phyla are detected in lawns, and patterns of phylum dominancy are similar to other systems.

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