DERRY City and Strabane District Council are aiming to boost the local bee population through an innovative new grass management system.
The ‘Don’t Mow, Let it Grow’ initiative is part of Council’s Pollinator Plan and will see temporarily reduced cutting on selected sections of Council’s parks and greenways network.
The strategy aims to create grasslands rich in wild flowers to create a more favourable habitat for bees in the summer months.
The Pollinator Plan forms part of Council’s pioneering Green Infrastructure Plan and Biodiversity Officer, Christine Doherty, said it could play a key role in fighting the extinction of many species of bees on the island of Ireland.
“A third of the bee population in Ireland is potentially at risk of extinction and that poses a huge problem for us as we rely on bees to pollinate the majority of our crops and wildflowers,” she noted.
“With a reduction in the bee population we’ll have less variety of foods and costs will increase.
“This trial in grass management will initially be piloted at ten of our key parks meaning that we won’t be cutting grass as frequently and we will use a special type of machinery that cuts and lifts the grass in late August or early September.
“This action will create grasslands rich in native wild flowers thereby increasing the amount of food available for bees and providing them with shelter hopefully leading to an increase in the bee population which is good for our economy and our environment.
“The change will also prevent 1.6 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions from the reduction in grass cutting which is a positive step in mitigating against the impacts of climate change.”
“Don’t Mow, Let it Grow is also linked to the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan which encourages all of us to play our part in bringing back the bees.”
John Quinn, Council’s Streetscape Manager, explained out the system will be implemented: “Council will install signage at ten of its key green spaces, to trial a change in grass management in sections of these sites for pollinators.
“This change in grassland management will take place initially on over 3% of our estate (26 ha).
“The majority of grasslands are cut too frequently, with grass cuttings left behind, which increases soil nutrient levels and stimulates vigorous grasses.
“This cycle increases on-going management costs and the need for additional grass cutting.”
By changing the grass management, this will create grasslands rich in native wild flowers, which contribute towards the conservation of the UK’s biodiversity and help deliver the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan.
It supports Council to deliver their statutory biodiversity duty, improves the biodiversity value of grasslands, enhances ecological connectivity and contributes towards biodiversity net gain.
The change to grassland management, reduces cutting frequency, reduces vegetation growth and provides an opportunity to enhance the existing natural capital value.
It will increase the number and diversity of flowering plants, provide a more sustainable service under the current conditions and reduces the Council’s carbon footprint.
For further information on this initiative and Council’s wider Green Infrastructure Plan visit www.derrystrabane.com/biodiversity