Flowering trees, dead wood, and wild tall grass gaining ground at DTU

DTU is busy promoting biodiversity in the green areas on DTU Lyngby Campus with due respect for the cultural history and daily functions of the area.

The planting of new native species on the DTU Lyngby Campus serves two purposes. In part, it supports the forest and plain character that characterizes the landscape on campus. It also helps to diversify nature to the benefit of birds and insects. The crap apple trees that adorn one of DTU's central squares, Matematiktorvet, are a living example of this. Photo: Nasrin Billie
In DTU's central square, Kemitorvet, close to the future light rail transit system, wild beds of meadow grass have been laid out, while old beech and oak trees have been preserved. Photo: Nasrin Billie

Experiences of nature for benefit and enjoyment

The development of the green areas is also about providing new experiences of nature for the University’s 13,500 students and 6,000 employees.

“Outdoor campus premises must be beautiful and inviting, and create a setting for both academic and social activities and movement. The joy of experiencing nature and the positive effect of green surroundings on learning, well-being, and stress reduction are something that all people share regardless of age, gender, and background,” says Katja Engel Zepernick.

Still the possibility of recreation

The biodiversity guidelines have been developed so that the University’s original green structure and campus identity are preserved. In this connection, species diversity on DTU Lyngby Campus has been measured and assessed as moderate.

“The dream scenario where the vegetation develops naturally and dynamically without any interference is not possible on a campus where the green areas also serve as recreation or path areas. Here, it’s still necessary to mow the grass and prune trees and shrubs,” says Tom Nordbo Andreassen, who is in charge of the management of DTU’s green areas.

The campus provides a setting for the everyday life of staff and students, but it is also a large university park where the University’s neighbours can go for a run, walk their dog, do sports or gain insight into university life.

“A grassy area left untouched may well appear neglected, but by mowing the grass in areas for recreation and paths, as well as keeping the edges at roads, paths, or pavements well trimmed and mowed, we show that someone is looking after and caring for the green areas. It makes people feel safe and welcome,” he elaborates.

The contrast between the tall grass and the mowed lawn signifies that the campus area is not unkempt, but wild on purpose. Photo: Nasrin Billie

Clearing in the oak forest

When DTU Lyngby Campus was built, the campus was conceived as a clearing in the oak forest. The forest was created by planting a wide belt of oak forest, called the fringe forest, as well as scattered oak woods between the buildings, so that the oak trees stand randomly and naturally between the houses.

“Oak trees are particularly good for biodiversity, as they are associated with around 800 species, and the forest motif remains important and must be preserved as part of the identity of the campus landscape, even though new buildings are built and densified,” says project manager Katja Engel Zepernick.

According to the guidelines, the biodiversity of the fringe forest is to be increased by establishing an undergrowth open to light and consisting of wild Danish species such as anemone, hawthorn, hazel, and common bird cherry. These species will be able to attract a wide variety of insects such as butterflies, bees, and birds that feed on the insects.

Stag beetle at DTU campus

Trunks and branches from felled trees and other cut-offs from the maintenance of the area will, to a greater extent, be left on the campus' green areas. It is called dead wood and creates natural habitats for many insects and fungi, which, in turn, are feed sources for birds. These brushwood piles or brushwood hedges are also good hiding and wintering places for many species, including mice and hedgehogs.

“The very large beetle, the stag beetle, which has disappeared from Danish nature for many years, has now returned to Jægersborg Deer Park, because the old trees are allowed to perish naturally,” says Katja Engel Zepernick enthusiastically.

"It would be fantastic if we could get the stag beetle to establish itself on campus because we had created the right habitats for it,” concur Tom Nordbo Andreassen and Katja Engel Zepernick.  

Look from the Esplanade north of building 101, where one of the many forest-like areas with oak trees can be seen (on the left). Photo: Dot Severine Nielsen


  • The stonewort sedum has been planted on the roofs of building 101. It serves as a pantry for insects, which are therefore thriving on the roofs.
  • A characteristic feature of the landscape on campus is the flat and horizontal terrain, which helps divert rainwater away from the green areas. There is virtually no freestanding water on campus, with the exception of hard-edged basins. Many animals will benefit from water, and DTU will therefore establish rain gardens adapted to the characteristic campus landscape.


The focus on biodiversity has increased sharply. Plant and animal species are threatened with extinction and many researchers describe the biodiversity crisis as the worst crisis facing humanity.

  • Biodiversity includes all life on the planet - in water and on land. This means animals, plants, fungi, bacteria and the ecosystems where plants and animals live, e.g. a forest or a lake.
  • At DTU, we work particularly with biodiversity in water.

Read more in our special topic about biodiversity.