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Leave the leaves alone. Cleaning them up disrupts ecosystems

Leave the leaves alone. Cleaning them up disrupts ecosystems

Image source: Β© canva
Marta Grzeszczuk,
12.10.2023 11:00

Every autumn, huge quantities of leaves in plastic bags end up in landfills. This causes a number of adverse consequences.

We have now entered the season where rakes and plastic bags are constantly in use. Leaves falling from the trees are now enemy number one for many private and municipal landowners. Meanwhile, as they do every year, experts endorsing "Leave the leaves" global campaign will be calling for people to stop looking at them as rubbish and explaining that they serve an important role in ecosystems.

Experts plead: "Leave the leaves!"

Among the organisations promoting the campaign is the United States Department of Agriculture. Its website reminds us that the natural mulch that is created from fallen leaves helps to suppress weeds, while also fertilising the soil as it decomposes. The micro-organisms that live in the soil and fertilise it need nutrients all year round.

The more leaves on the ground, the more food for the micro-organisms, which make the soil healthier and the plants stronger. When leaves start to decay, they give organic matter back to the soil, which reduces the need for fertiliser. So our "cleaning up" leaves de facto sterilises the soil.

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Mulching protects the soil surface and helps to stop erosion caused by rainfall. Mulch also helps to moderate temperature extremes, keeping roots warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. It helps keep the soil moist, which is particularly important in the face of the hydrological drought that has been ongoing and worsening in Poland for years.

Fallen leaves also provide a habitat for wildlife including: lizards, birds, turtles, frogs and insects that overwinter in them. These creatures help to keep pests down and are also involved in improving pollination. Ensuring they survive the winter in fallen leaves improves the chances of keeping them around to perform their natural functions.

Experts urge us not to dispose of leaves in landfill sites. If we are unable to leave them alone where they fall, they suggest moving them under trees or to other places in the garden. You can also shred the leaves with a lawnmower, so they won't be a thorn in your side.

Source: usda.gov

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