This winter the roads have been salted more than ever before. Does this harm nature along roadside verges? Vegetation specialist André Schaffers of the Nature Conservation and Plant Ecology Group says it could be worse.
But there are plants that do cope with it. Coastal and tidal marsh plants are slowly spreading inland. Danish scurvy grass, common saltmarsh grass and thrift seapink, for instance. This development has been noticeable since the sixties. The question is: does it matter? Roadside verges have an important function in our country. Four percent of our land surface is natural area. One and a half percent is roadside verge. That's quite a lot. Those verges aren't fertilized, although they are nearly always managed.
Potentially, they are little natural areas. We do already have the ecological main structure, this is what I always say. Some vegetations are unusual. If they disappear then that is a serious matter, but those special vegetations aren't usually found in the first few metres. So I take a cautious view. You won't hear me saying we mustn't salt the roads because it is bad for nature. The verges are not going to dry up and become barren at a blow. And the question of what is a terrible loss and what is recuperation, well, that depends on your definitions. There will always be something else to take the place of what is lost.'