Multifunctionality in golf courses – effects of different management practices on the ecosystem services carbon sequestration and biodiversity


In this study, six golf courses, two each near three cities in Sweden (Uppsala, Malmö and Gothenburg) are being investigated. On these courses, six holes have been sampled for both environmental and ecological parameters. After contacts and discussions with managers responsible for the six golf courses in the three regions, a total of 180 interviews have been conducted (30 interviews made at each golf course).

Ecological studies  The basis of the ecological studies was the difference in ecological effect between the three types of management regimes studied (fairway, rough and high rough). Plant species richness, number of flowers and number of visiting pollinators all increased with decreasing management intensity from fairway to high rough. This shows that pollinators are attracted to the flower-rich parts of the golf course and that increasing the flower-rich areas on the course, either by constructing such areas or introducing measure to increase floral wealth, will benefit several organism groups. The number of plant species found in plots in the six golf courses varied from 40 in Burlöv GK to 71 in Lunds akademiska GK.

Carbon sequestration  Biomass production was lowest in the greens followed by the fairways and the roughs. The difference between roughs and fairways was thereby significant. Soil organic C concentration in greens (0.93%) was significantly lower than in fairways (4.0±1.3%) and roughs (4.5±1.2%). The difference between roughs and fairways was in the same direction as observed for above-ground production. On average, roughs had about 10 tons C ha-1 more soil C than fairways. Alternative cutting regimes on greens and fairways are probably not feasible, but the management of the rough may be optimised in order to maximise carbon sequestration.

Golf's importance from a social, ecological and cultural perspective  The interviews indicated that the golf course and time spent on the golf course include so much more than the sport itself. For many players, visits to the golf course also act as experience of nature and beautiful surroundings in a social context, a way to stay in shape (fitness) and a way to relax (recreation).

Golf courses have great potential to support multiple values, for biodiversity and carbon sequestration and the social wellbeing of people. We are presently completing the report from the social studies, which include analysis of trade-offs and synergies between the different ecosystem services.

Category: Multifunctional golf facilities
Status: Finished
Project period: April 2014 - March 2016

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Project objective

• To evaluate how management of different areas in golf courses affects carbon (C) sequestration and biodiversity
• To evaluate whether C sequestration potential increases with plant biomass production
• To evaluate whether plant species and pollinators, i.e. the ecosystem service of biodiversity, are correlated to management intensity, with higher biodiversity in less intensively managed vegetation.
• To evaluate whether the biodiversity of the golf course is related to the species richness of the surroundings.
• To evaluate whether more intensive management with more inputs shows trade-offs between carbon sequestration and biodiversity but not necessarily with grass properties and recreational values for golf players.

Project participants

Thomas Kätterer


Department of Ecology, SLU, P. O. Box 7044, SE 75007 Uppsala, Sweden.

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