Reanna Martinez

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The Consequence of Lawn Removal

The Consequence of Lawn Removal

Ripping out your lawn may have a greater impact on the environment than you think.  There are consequences to removing grass, both good and bad.

Los Angeles homeowners have been on a mission.  In the last year, water-thirsty lawns have been replaced with drought-tolerant landscaping options at a rate never before seen.  Across the city, tens of thousands of lawns were ripped up in favor of gravel, artificial turf, decomposed granite, and a wide range of drought-tolerant and native plants.

Of course, the water-saving benefits are tremendous!  According to experts, Californians are facing the worst drought in 1,200 years, and every water-saving measure should be exploited.  But some eco-conscious experts wonder if there might be some unintended consequences to eliminating so much green space.  (Read about California’s Tree Disparity)

Gardens and lawns act as air conditioning for Los Angeles, which is only getting hotter with climate change.  Plants and trees provide shade and give off moisture to cool the air.  If L.A. homeowners continue to remove moisture-producing vegetation, do we also loose the cooling effect?

Geophysical Research Letters recently published a paper by University of Southern California post-doctoral research associate, Pouya Vahmani, and USC civil and environmental engineering professor, George Ban-Weiss, which analyzes what would happen to the city’s overall temperature during the month of July if every lawn in Los Angeles were replaced with drought-tolerant plants.

If every lawn in Los Angeles was comprised of drought-resistant native plants, daytime temperatures would actually increase 3-4 degrees due to decreased irrigation.  That’s because water stored in grass helps lower air temperatures.  No grass, no cooling effect.  So should we reconsider terminating the turf?

Fortunately, the study wasn’t all bad news.  They also found that replacing all lawns in L.A. would decrease nighttime temps up to 5.4 degrees.  The overall difference suggests eliminating lawns would ultimating produce a cooling effect for the environment.  The finding surprised even the researchers.

“We hypothesized that our model would predict daytime warming, but we did not anticipate the nighttime cooling signal,” study coauthor George Ban-Weiss told the paper. “In retrospect, it makes sense that reducing soil moisture would change the thermal properties of the soil and surface-atmosphere coupling in this way.”


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27 Responses

  1. I used to think that the idea of removing my front garden’s lawn would have been a great idea, now I can see I was wrong. Lawn really is important for our environment, you got it right buddy, now I will just take proper care of it as I’ve been doing lately, thanks for sharing!

  2. Very information and definitely makes me think twice. Its always nice to come across articles like this that give you a warning before the damage is done and you later regret it.

    1. You’re right, nature is one of the most important things in this world and it’s something we can not attempt anything against, it always wins against us, it’s the most powerful thing ever.

  3. I think that nature is important, and uprooting nature for the inner feeling of invincibility from the drought isn’t necessarily right. Nature has a cycle, and nature dies and then grows again. Even though the grass may not look very pretty right now, this is just a part of a natural cycle, so its nothing that people should worry about changing.

    1. It’s more about making sure that they can conserve water. I suppose the biggest problem when it comes to lawns is the amount of water used since people hose their plants. Drip irrigation can work just as well, especially from water recycled from home use.

  4. This is an interesting perspective that shows both sides. I’ve seen lots of artificial turf yards, and always just assumed it was better for the environment on a water conservation level, and didn’t think about the effect on temperature. My takeaway from this is that perhaps we’re better off replacing grass with more drought-resistant plants instead so that we can conserve more water and still get the benefits of green space in providing cleaner air, preventing erosion, and helping out local wildlife. I’ve seen some absolutely lovely lawns composed of desert grasses and plants.

  5. It seems like, if people were to remove their lawns, LA would go back to its natural desert state. Bringing an area back to its natural state has got to be ultimately good the environment, right? It can’t make the drought worse, at any rate.

  6. A great perspective here. I used to think my lawn was a chore and did as much as I could to remove as much of it as I could from around my house. I found the maintenance upkeep too much work for me to handle with my busy lifestyle. I spent hours researching for plants that weren’t as high maintenance and, I have never been happier.
    Thanks for this article and the great information!

  7. I’m glad I came across this article since I’ve been considering cementing my front lawn. Part of it is laziness, part ignorance. Sometimes, we just don’t have time or energy to properly manicure or lawn. In addition to a mower that needs repair year after year, it’s hard to keep up with the fast growing grass. Other than that, I had no idea how beneficial having a lawn even was. I more so thought it was there just for show, because everyone else had one. Thanks for setting the story straight!

  8. I don’t see why people should rip off their lawns. Yes, they tell you about the benefits of having plants nearby (they release oxygen and makes your place cooler and heat-proof). However, another important reason why you should keep a lawn is that you can put up a mini vegetable garden and grow your own crops. This sounds cliche but when emergency strikes such as a sudden thunderstorm or earthquake you can look forward to extra food on your table. Just my two cents, though.

  9. Very informative article! I would never imagine that it is so bad for the environment to remove the lawn! I was considering to remove the lawn from my garden but now I changed my mind.

  10. That is amazing that if every lawn had that grass the daily temperature would rise 3 to 4 degrees. That may not sound like much, but that really is a huge difference, especially when you start getting into the 100 degree weather. That is alarming, and really does just highlight the dangers of what I have always thought of as a rather dumb practice – the whole lawn care thing.

  11. I guess no matter what we do, we can’t avoid the consequences of global warming. I think the human race needs to focus on solutions for the big issue of global warming. As we learned in this article, we can’t just solve the smaller issues like drought without solving the big issue.

  12. Well that is to be expected when one uproots all their lawn. Matterials like asphalt, cement, and gravel tend to soak up the heat from the sun, and they emit that heat day and night, that way the temperature doesn’t drop in the night as it should be. Result: smoldering heat in the summer.
    However keeping a lawn can be expensive.
    This is very commonplace knowledge in warm countries, where if they can’t maintain their lawn due to cost of drought, they paint all building and pavement surfaces white, to reflect a good portion of the sunlight. (That’s why the little houses on Greek islands are painted white)

  13. My family and I have been deeply considering ripping out our lawn for a while now. At first, we were against it, as it would be a lot of work. But the combination of water saved and the overall benefit to the environment is inspiring us too. We don’t mind warmer days if it means an overall cooler Earth.

  14. I agree with your point. It is necessary to control the day temperature as if it rises more than expected then it can harm a lot of living things. We would have to keep a control and balance between nature and us. A proper planning is good for advantages in future.

  15. I would take rocks or pure cement pavement over grass any day. Maintaining our patch of superficial greenery is a huge waste of time and money. I would rather have potted plants to contribute to the ambiance.

  16. Good post. As a society, we are becoming more aware of environmental issues day by day.
    Impervious surfaces such as cement do not contribute to the ecological equilibrium, and they could be a way for runoffs. Rain gardens and tree box filters are a good solution to collect rain water.

  17. It depends on the place where the lawn is located, in california its getting hot because of climate change. I dont know that the lawn and grass acts as natural airconditionjng in our environment. Thats a nice information. Thanks for the post.

  18. I will not remove the lawn in front or in my lot because it is beautiful to see in front of the house plus it is a natural way of keeping your front house loooking fresh and relaxing.

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