Lawns: An Unsuspected Store of Oxygen and a Brake on Global Warming

Everyone recognizes the essential role that trees play in capturing carbon and releasing oxygen into the atmosphere. Without trees, life on earth would be impossible. But what about lawns?

A University of Michigan study demonstrates that a grassed area can be as good a supplier of oxygen as a forest. In fact, the oxygen contribution of an ecosystem is linked to its carbon capture rate. So, estuaries, marshes and tropical rainforests are the great champions at supplying oxygen, and it’s not for nothing that they’re called the lungs of the earth. But not far behind are woodland, agricultural land and stretches of grasslands, including lawns.

In that respect, an average residential plot, with 230 square metres of lawn, absorbs carbon dioxide and releases all the oxygen needed to keep a family of four alive. Because plants’ oxygen contribution is directly linked to the quantity of carbon captured by them, the longer you let your grass grow, the more “oxygenating” it is!

The ecological benefits of a lawn don’t stop at its oxygen contribution. Just like trees and shrubs in an urban environment, lawns also have a positive impact on combating the effect of heat islands. If you compare a grassed area with a parking lot, the air temperature over the asphalt is 1 to 2 degrees Celsius higher then over the lawn. This leads to the development of new approaches to ground cover in spaces reserved for vehicles, such as using permeable paving or grass reinforcing mesh.

More and more shopping centres with parking lots that are only used a few weeks a year are considering reinforcing mesh as an excellent alternative to asphalt. The same goes for schoolyards which all have the opportunity of increasing their green spaces, if only for the wellbeing of their children. As well as limiting asphalted areas, these new types of lawns instantly improve aesthetic attractiveness and participate in a practical way in combating global warming.

Last but not least, lawns also have a significant impact on runoff. Rather than being washed directly into sewers and watercourses, the water absorbed by lawns is naturally filtered and purified before reaching the water table.

Lawns thus have an undeniably positive effect on the environment and offer many advantages over synthetic materials and impermeable paving. 

To find a garden centre, or landscaper:

Resources:   

Anonymous. 2011. Does grass alone produce enough oxygen for life? Skeptics – Scientific discussion forum. Consulted online.

Anonymous. How Turfgrass affects the Environment. Turfgrass producers international. Consulted online.

Tyler Miller, G. Jr. 2008. The Flow of Energy: Primary Production to Higher Trophic Levels. Regents of the University of Michigan.

 

 

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