Naturalization is the process of transforming a cultivated landscaped area into a more natural landscape or grassland.

What are the benefits of naturalization?

Naturalization supports an increase in biodiversity of plants, wildlife, and beneficial invertebrates like pollinators. It helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and maintains oxygen levels more effectively than cultivated turf. Naturalization zones also add visual interest to our greenspaces and can provide citizens with opportunities to interact with a more diverse environment close to home.

Naturalization has economic benefits as well. In the long-term, maintenance costs will be reduced as the need for mowing decreases, and the need for high maintenance chemical treatments of weeds will also be reduced over time as native plants establish and outcompete invasive weeds. Naturalization zones can even reduce flooding risks and pressure on municipal drainage systems by capturing and filtering rainwater, as well as reducing storm water runoff.

How is the City working towards naturalization?

In 2019, the City established two pollinator gardens at Clover Park and Jubilee Park to help support our native pollinators and community gardens. In 2020, we began our goat program at West River’s Edge to reduce our reliance on chemical treatment of weeds in the park.

In 2021, the City began a pilot program by converting several lower use greenspaces into naturalized zones. This process began by establishing “no mow” zones in select areas such as Turner Park and along 112th street. As we allow the grass to grow in these areas, the City will take measures to control weeds, remove litter and monitor the areas for change. The process of naturalization may take several years to establish a stabilized grassland, which will greatly reduce or eliminate the need for weed control in the future as the soil improves and native plants outcompete invasive weeds. Future plans for these areas include continued monitoring, control of weeds as needed according to the Alberta Weed Control Act, seeding areas with native vegetation as needed, and planting of native trees and shrubs where appropriate.

How can you help?

Did you know that invertebrates are truly the heart of a healthy environment and are absolutely vital to life as we know it? They pollinate our crops, play a huge role in decomposition of organic waste, and are an important food source for a myriad of other animals, including many of your favourite songbirds. You can help by learning as much as you can about local invertebrates and the role they play in the ecosystem.

Did you know that many native pollinators and other beneficial invertebrates overwinter in leaf litter and hollowed stalks of dead plants? Consider creating a safe haven for these beneficial insects by creating a heap of leaves and wood in the corner of your yard for them to overwinter and leave it there year-round or delay cleaning it up in the spring until warm temperatures are consistent enough for invertebrates to emerge.

One of the easiest things you can do to support native pollinators is to plant native flowers. Consider planting a pollinator friendly garden or converting part of your own yard to a more natural landscape to provide more suitable habitat. Reduce or eliminate pesticide use or consider more environmentally conscious control methods for reducing pests.