A common misconception about artificial lawns is that they are bad for the environment, as if having a bit less grass could mean destroying habitats for various species without any positives for the ecosystem – which is not the case.
There are indeed some positives for the environment provided by synthetic lawns; there is no carbon footprint from using the lawn mower because you won’t need one. There is no chance you will be using any pesticides on it, and the fact that it needs less care than a natural lawn means gardeners can dedicate more time to doing eco-friendly things elsewhere.
All this may be significant in view of one kind of creature that is increasingly under threat in Britain – moths.
An alarming study by Butterfly Conservation has found that numbers of large moths in Britain has fallen by a third in the last 50 years. So serious is this decline that many species are now at risk of becoming seriously endangered and this will have wider knock-on effects, due to their role as pollinators.
Unlike butterflies, which flit around by day, moths are nocturnal and their ideal environment consists of lots of cool, shaded areas around trees and woodland. As well as helping pollinate plants, they are also important as food for various predators like bats. There are moths that live and breed in grasslands, but this is the long, wild grass of wildflower meadows, not neatly-trimmed lawns.
Among the causes of the decline has been the increasing use of pesticides, something artificial turf will never need. But the destruction of their habitat is also a key issue, as is climate change. In the latter case, the warming climate has led to numbers declining much faster in the southern half of the country.
Another suspected – but not confirmed factor – is the use of artificial light at night, which can affect moth behaviour. Householders might not wish to dispense with security lights, but with an artificial lawn there is certainly no need to provide illumination designed to aid grass growth in winter.
Among the 900 species in the UK, the moths that have seen the greatest decline in the past half century include the Stoud Dart, which is down 81 per cent, the Golden Plusia, which has suffered a 58 per cent decline, and the Garden Dart, down 54 per cent.
Clearly it is not your lawn that will be the problem, nor contain the solution. But with little or no time needing to be spent on that part of the garden, more can be dedicated to taking the action necessary to create more moth-friendly habitats elsewhere.
This will include making sure you don’t prune your trees too much, but leave sheltered, shady areas and little corners with plenty of wood. This can actually encourage all sorts of other invertebrate life to, in order to help encourage balance in the ecosystem. The existence of areas like this will also shield moths from light pollution in the area.
All this shows that having an artificial turf lawn does not mean having a downer on animal habitats. On the contrary, it means you can focus plenty of energy on ensuring other parts of your garden provide safe havens for the creatures great and small that need them the most.