In the United States of America, there is a growing need for studies and research on lawns’ social, economic, anthropologic, geographic, and environmental effects (Blaine et al. 2012; Robbins, Birkenholtz 2003; Speake, Edmondson, Nawaz 2013). There is especially more concern with the uses of lawns in the arid mid-west (Robbins 2003).
In the region of Durango, Colorado, it is a drier and desert-like area, with many native plants being drought resistant. At Fort Lewis College in Durango, scholars will be conducting a study that looks at various aspects of the lawns (Kentucky bluegrass), versus gardens on the college’s campus. Since Fort Lewis is located in such an arid region, this study is important for many environmental reasons (ecology, biology, geography), while still acknowledging social, anthropological, and economic interactions with the areas. Issues such as water use and water management, chemical use, and social relationships with the lawns and the gardens will be viewed and researched to articulate which one of them is better for a sustainable campus setting.
The terminology of what makes a lawn and what makes a garden must first be reviewed and understood. A lawn on campus would be any green spaces (Speake, Edmondson, Nawaz 2013) that are only made up of Kentucky Bluegrass; lawns would have many characteristics in relation with students for lounging, playing, or studying. There are several different gardens around the Fort Lewis campus, varying in style. All of the gardens on campus are xeriscaped gardens, which means the gardens have drought tolerant plants; this greatly reduces and minimizes the supplemental water use for the gardens. This type of landscaping is advocated in areas that are not plentiful of water or do not have reliable water sources or supplies (most of Colorado). A public perception of these gardens is a negative one, in that they are ugly or limiting landscapes; with intelligence in water conversation and of different water practices, this perception is seen to improve tremendously towards a positive association (Blaine et al. 2012; Speake, Edmondson, Nawaz 2013). Scholars will closely observe all of these different aspects of the gardens in relation to the lawns. Sustainability is being defined in this sense as, an environmental system that is biologically diverse and stable, in relation to nature and wild ecosystems.
When viewing the campus landscape and comparing it to the surrounding wild ecosystems, they differ in perspective, illustrating lawns and gardens environmental impacts on the ecosystem. There are several questions that play a key component in the study between lawns and gardens. Although the gardens are xeriscaped, is there truly little to no water being used? Is all of the plant life in the xeriscaped gardens native to the area? What is the difference in money being spent between the gardens and the lawns?
In this study, the role of the landscape on college campuses will truly be looked at with the help of students’ involvement in participating and helping with the study. The importance of looking closely at all the aspects of turfgrass within the U.S. is due to the increasing development of them (Robbins, Birkenholtz 2003). There is so much information to gather from lawns, such as what perceptions students have of them, what students get out of them, what ecological values they have, what economic value they have, what they represent for a college campus, and how they may also be harmful for human and environmental health.
There are four different parts to the case study that will be evaluated: (1) on Fort Lewis’ campus, how do lawns and gardens compare in terms of vegetation coverage, (2) plant diversity, (3) and mammal usage (data of animal scat and animal tracks will be collected); (4) lastly, student usage as well as their associations of the lawns and gardens will be surveyed.
In determining these dependent variables in the study, an outcome of better understanding and knowledge will aid in sustainability of college campuses.
Blaine, T., Clayton, S., Robbins, P., Grewal, P. 2012. Homeowner Attitudes and Practices Towards Residential Landscape Management in Ohio, USA. Environmental Management 50: 257-271. Blaine_12
Robbins, P., Birkenholtz, T. 2003. Turfgrass revolution: measuring the expansion of the American lawn. Land Use Policy 20: 181-194.
Speake, J., Edmondson, S., Nawaz, H. 2013. Everyday encounters with nature: students’ perceptions and use of university campus green spaces. Human Geographies – Journal of Studies and Research in Human Geography 7.1: 21-31.