Walking through the ground of U.S. Embassy Nur-Sultan is reminiscent of the famous Kazakh Steppe. The gardens are teeming with native grasses and wildflowers in a composition known as a Moorish Lawn. The embassy used funds from the 2020 Resilience Innovation Grant provided by the Greening Diplomacy Initiative and Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations to install a Moorish Lawn, a common lawn design in Kazakhstan resembling the wild meadows found in the Steppe. In addition to paying homage to Kazakhstan’s natural flora, the new lawn reduced the hours and water needed to maintain post grounds as the greenery in the Moorish Lawn are all native species adapted to Kazakhstan’s climate.
“At Embassy Nur-Sultan, we are committed to restoring natural landscapes and habitats on our property,” said U.S. Ambassador to Kazakhstan William H. Moser. “We are introducing native plants and grasses to recreate the Kazakh Steppe right in the middle of the capital city. Our new landscape area is visible to all passersby.” He noted the importance of the steppe to Kazakh culture and for the climate, saying “by converting high-maintenance, water-intensive manicured lawns into self-perpetuating wildflower space, we are simultaneously paying homage to the great nation of Kazakhstan, creating pollinator habitat, lowering our carbon footprint, and decreasing water usage – truly Green Diplomacy.”
Embassy Nur-Sultan’s efforts to support local flora and fauna by restoring native habitat aligns with this year’s World Environment Day theme: “Reimagine, Recreate, Restore,” a message that is focused on ecosystem restoration. Celebrated every year on June 5, the United Nations’ (UN) World Environment Day brings attention to a global environmental issue. Every three seconds, the world loses an amount of forest the size of a football field. According to the UN, as much as 50 percent of the world’s coral reefs have been destroyed and up to 90 percent of coral reefs could be lost by 2050. This launches a domino effect whereby other interdependent ecosystems begin to die off, accelerating the effects of climate change. By prioritizing the restoration of local ecosystems, people and communities can begin to counteract the effects of climate change and halt the loss of biodiversity.
The State Department supports local ecosystems at its diplomatic facilities around the world. In the gardens of the U.S. Embassy Bern Chief of Mission’s Residence, native wildlife like ducks, badgers, and foxes live among rare Swiss wildflowers. This is thanks to the efforts of the Residence’s gardener Reto Graf. He redesigned the landscape to rehabilitate it into a more natural ecosystem, melding the beautiful Swiss landscape with our U.S. diplomatic facility operations. Graf also ensures that nothing goes to waste – yard clippings and landscape debris from the redesign were used to create additional wildlife habitats. This has also reduced the waste produced by the embassy and eliminated costs for its disposal. In recognition of the pollinator and wildlife friendly habitat created at the Ambassador’s Residence, the property was designated as a Certified Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation.
“Reto has gone above and beyond in designing the Bern landscape to exemplify the Department’s goals of sustainability and environmental consciousness,” said Embassy Bern Facility Manager JJ Johnson. “He is always thinking of the future and trying to find new ways to reduce our mission’s impact on the environment.”
Prioritizing the restoration of local ecosystems can help mitigate the worst effects of climate change. It provides resilient, sustainable environments for native species to thrive, protecting biodiversity and safeguarding against larger environmental risks like flooding and air pollution. Today, download the Earth Challenge app to contribute data which empowers the rehabilitation of local ecosystems.
About the Author: Peter Brukx is an Eco-Pathways Intern with the Greening Diplomacy Initiative in the Office of Management Strategy and Solutions at the U.S. Department of State.