In Florida, outdoor fun is enjoyed year-round. And from playgrounds to parks to home lawns, healthy landscapes are an important ingredient to many outdoor activities and recreation. But did you know that healthy, properly maintained landscapes are more than just great places to enjoy the Florida sunshine? A report by The Environmental Health Research Foundation, a nonprofit research foundation specializing in health and environmental science touts the many significant environmental and human health benefits of healthy landscapes including:
- Water quality purification and run-off prevention – There are many different current and legacy sources of nitrogen and other nutrients in an urban environment, such as atmospheric deposition and septic tank leaching, which are major contributing factors to elevated nitrogen levels in waterways. Perhaps the most significant benefit of healthy landscapes is its ability to capture and filter many types of pollution and non-point sources of urban runoff that otherwise would flow into waterways. Healthy, dense turf is 3 times more effective than weedy, unhealthy turf in preventing nitrogen runoff.
- Air filtration – Urban landscapes purify and trap more than 12 million tons of dust, soil and other particulate matter, making the air we breathe cleaner and safer.
- Temperature cooling – According to a 2005 study, urban landscaping around homes reduces air conditioning costs by as much as $6.3 billion annually.
- Oxygen generation – A 50 ft. by 50 ft. urban landscape releases enough oxygen to provide daily support for a family of four, an average 18 hole golf course releases enough oxygen to provide daily support for 4000-7000 people and green space along the U.S. Interstate highway system releases enough oxygen for 22 million people.
- Increased physical activity, obesity reduction and stress reduction – Access to urban landscapes is an important predictor of increased physical activity and reduced risk of obesity. A recent study of over 40 million people in England showed that health disparities between high income and low income populations are much more narrow in areas with ample green space, possibly because it allows residents to become more physically active and reduce stress.
Just like people and pets, our landscapes require adequate nutrition in order to grow healthy and strong. Without proper nutrition, our landscapes become too weak to properly protect our environment, natural resources and offer so many benefits. That’s why it is critical to make sure we properly maintain our landscapes by ensuring they receive all the nutrients they need – particularly during times when the landscapes are actively growing and best able to absorb nutrients.
When needed and properly applied, landscapes efficiently absorb nitrogen and other nutrients in fertilizer. However, when nutrients and fertilizers are improperly applied, or applied to dormant landscapes, they can make their way into water bodies and harm water quality. That is why it is important to always follow the University of Florida’s Institute for Food & Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Nine (9) Principals for Florida-friendly Landscaping (http://fyn.ifas.ufl.edu/homeowners/nine_principles.htm) when feeding your lawn and landscapes.
Healthy landscapes lead to healthy water bodies and a healthy environment. The Environmental Research & Education Foundation (EREF) works to protect Florida’s environment and natural resources through the funding of environmental research and the dissemination of sound scientific findings on the environmental and human health benefits of healthy, properly maintained green spaces and urban landscapes.