Naturalization can really grow on you.
“We understand that naturalization is a change in what you’re visually used to,” said Catherine Falk, who is a Landscape Technician with the City of Edmonton.
“Some people may find that it looks messy or unkempt or partially fearful of what might be in that area, but, over time, they do find that deeper appreciation for naturalized areas.”
Naturalization means helping land and habitat return to a more natural state.
In Edmonton this year, approximately 150 hectares of land at stormwater management facilities will begin the process of naturalization.
Naturalization in these areas means going from an area that looks like this, where a buffer of grass around the stormwater facility is left unmowed:
To something after a few years that looks more like this:
And then, in time, back to this:
Returning to a more natural habitat is good for pollinators like bees and butterflies, and for birds and for small animals.
Naturalized areas can also act as a connector habitat for the movement of larger animals like deer and us humans, too.
Naturalization stabilizes the soil thanks to plants with deeper roots. It also helps with reducing runoff during large rain events, as well as filtering water and improving water quality.
As planted trees mature, the value of the urban forest increases.
Naturalization helps preserve that other valuable resource—money—by decreasing mowing costs.
“The key ingredient for naturalization is patience,” said Nicole Fraser, who is the General Supervisor, Operations Planning and Monitoring, with the City of Edmonton.
“It is known that natural processes will create the best environment for everyone to co-exist,” said Fraser. “A diverse, natural ecosystem gives us more benefits than our best intended garden or lawn.”
That’s not just Nicole Fraser talking. It’s the United Nations, too. This year, the UN declared the next 10 years the Decade on Restoration.
Naturalization by the numbers
69,980: area in hectares of the City of Edmonton.
1,035: number of hectares of previously mowed open space land the City has recaptured through naturalization.
1.5: percentage of Edmonton—not including natural areas like the river valley, ravines and protected tree stands on table land—that is naturalized.
Editor’s note: the pics in this post were taken July 28, 2021, during a news media tour of naturalization stages at the stormwater management facility near Doug Kelly Park in Edmonton. Nicole Fraser spoke, Catherine Falk spoke and, while they did, so, too, did the birds. Enjoy: