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A natural approach to parks - decay!

06 of May '22

A big change in the approach to green spaces. They are no longer just pampered green spaces, but a place for natural and "messy" natural processes. So-called humus areas - ecological microhabitats serving, among other things, small animals - have been created in Poznań's parks and green spaces. The city is creating such places with the participation of naturalists and activists.

A new approach to shaping green areas in Poznań has been developing for several months. Dead and diseased trees, which had to be removed mainly for safety reasons, are not taken away from green areas, but form so-called humus areas. These are either whole uprooted trees, individual stumps, or cut branches and trunks stacked in heaps. This creates a reservoir of biomass that can serve insects, reptiles or small mammals. Depending on the degree of decomposition, fungi, mosses and lichens also develop in the humus. This increases the city's level of biodiversity. Poznan Urban Greenery Management (ZZM) emphasizes that:

Dead wood provides a wealth of ecological niches and microhabitats. In a log left to decompose naturally, a unique microclimate is created, with its own temperature, zone of shade, sunlight and moisture. Even a small roll of decaying wood becomes a complex space where life takes place.

park Kasprowicza w Poznaniu; próchnowisko

Kasprowicz Park in Poznań - decay in the form of a triangular heap

Photo: Jakub Głaz

decay is fine

ZZM has created the most recent decay piles in the peripherally located green space on Odlegno Street, as well as in the downtown Kas prowicz Park in the Lazarz district (it also houses the Arena hall, the reconstruction of which we wrote about here). The latter case is particularly interesting. First - decaying trees and trunks are visible in the orderly space of a typical park. Secondly, the decision to remove diseased and safety-threatening trees was made together with social scientists and naturalists, who had already advocated such solutions. Thus, 22 plants were selected to be cut down and left in the park: 13 silver maples, 4 common maples, 1 small-leaved linden, 2 rowan trees, 1 ash-leaved maple and 1 Canadian poplar. At the same time, ZZM stresses that - as compensation for the removed specimens - it is planting new trees and making every effort to save those damaged or diseased plants whose condition is not yet hopeless. Cutting down is a last resort:

The decision to cut down was based on a health assessment of the plants. Residents were able to see for themselves that these were dead trees during a dendrological walk. Specialists and local activists present at the time answered residents' questions.

Park Kasprowicza, próchnowisko przy hali Arena

Kasprowicz Park in Poznan - decaying trunks as an element of landscaping (Arena hall in the background)

Photo: Jakub Glaz

poznanians going wild?

During the walk, which took place in January, residents also had the opportunity to select places to store decaying wood. Several such sites of various forms have been created throughout the park. This makes it not only an ecological measure, but also one that shapes the landscape. Trunks or whole trees often provide a compositional accent and differentiate the character of the entire establishment. Trunks or fallen trees give several sites a "forest" look. This coincides with the demands increasingly formulated by Poznań residents during discussions about urban greenery. This is because it seems that residents have become saturated with the carefully (and sometimes very interestingly) shaped forms of urban gardens or squares and have longed for a freer and naturally valuable approach to the surrounding nature.

Park Kasprowicza, próchnowisko i powalone drzewo

Kasprowicz Park in Poznan - a fallen tree gives the park a more forest-like character

photo: Jakub Głaz

In addition to the ecological aspect, there is also a financial issue. Tree-trimming is an almost cost-free way to introduce new natural and compositional elements into the landscape of parks and greens. It's also a good way to educate nature, as the dendrological walk proved. Therefore, it is also worth thinking about information boards that will make some surprised walkers realize why "dirty" decay has appeared in the hitherto sterile park space. This is also a good start to apply a more relaxed approach also to other places of rest and recreation, such as playgrounds, saturated with bituminous surfaces and catalog equipment. Here, Berlin, for example, could be a model, where some plazas are created using wood and recycled materials, and children have the chance to get dirty with mud or sand banished in Poland by safe, resilient carpets.

Jakub Głaz

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