Meadows and Grasslands

Photo © Cam Miller

Green Concrete? Or All You Can Eat?

A bird flying over an expansive lawn monoculture and searching for something to eat would find that close-cropped turfgrass to be little better than green concrete. That same bird flying over a wildflower meadow, teeming with insects and wildlife, would find this a buffet in comparison! Where do you suppose a bird would rather stop and eat?

Birds-eye view

Under the sea of green and floral hues, grasslands hold a world of insect biodiversity

Photo © Keven Law

Attracting meadow or field birds to your property takes a little planning, but once your meadow is established, it will be much easier (and cheaper) to care for than a lawn. Letting your lawn go wild will immediately provide more cover and food for birds. However, most species of turfgrass are nonnative and therefore would not be equivalent to a meadow ecosystem. You could help it along and create a diverse meadow, full of native grasses and wildflowers (like lupines, milkweeds, and coneflowers); it may attract birds like the Eastern or Western Meadowlark, American Kestrel, and Lark Sparrow, in addition to butterflies.

Alpine Meadows & Climate Change

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Photo © Citt

Interesting research conducted in Norwegian alpine areas reveals that native meadows may have an important role to play in combating climate change. Researchers compared the rate of carbon sequestration in meadows, hedges, and shrubby areas and found that meadows stored much more CO2 compared to the other two habitat types. The majority of this storage is happening under ground in association with meadow root systems.open_in_new

These findings may help to inform land management practices in alpine meadows where expanding shrub habitat, especially in areas where grazing of livestock is becoming less common, is outcompeting native meadows . Perhaps maintaining expansive, carbon-capturing meadows is an important tool, in the very diverse tool-kit we are likely to need in addressing climate change.

Meadow at sunset

Photo © James Jordan

Field of Dreams

How is a prairie different from a meadow? Prairies are the Midwest’s answer to the meadow. Whereas meadows, typically found in the East, are temporary communities that need interventions in order to thwart succession, prairies do not transition to forest readily due to low precipitation, steady grazing, and frequent fire (all of which they are well-adapted to handle).There are many great books available on how to convert your lawn into a meadow or prairie that is appropriate for your ecoregion. Catherine Zimmerman’s Urban and Suburban Meadows and John Greenlee’s The American Meadow Garden: Creating a Natural Alternative to the Traditional Lawn are good resources for deciding if a meadow garden is right for you. If you do send your lawn packing in favor of a meadow, feel free to put up a small “Meadow in Progress” sign temporarily to alert the neighbors to your soon-to-be colorful grassland.

Aspen Trees in a Meadow

Photo © Royce Bair

Add it to your Map

Tell us about your meadow and grasslands.
First, add it as a habitat to your map.

Then, make sure to complete the info window under the characteristics for the meadow and grassland.

The eye of the beholder

Photo © Mike Martin

Weedy land saves bees

Bees have been in the news lately as research continues to show their populations are in trouble. In Europe certain pesticides shown to negatively impact bees were even outlawed for the next couple of years to help populations recover. You can help-out by letting small corners of your yard go fallow. The resulting wildflowers are important forage for bees, native and the like. It is an easy, and important step many people can take, that might just have a big impact on these wild pollinators.

Photo © Jonathan Campos

Mowing mortality

Photo ©