Members of the ICS research group recently attended The Biodiversity Research and Monitoring Forum held by The City of Melbourne – a day of discussions about biodiversity research in the urban area of Melbourne. It was a fantastic day to meet practitioners, decision makers and researchers working in Melbourne.
Three members of ICS spoke about projects underway in the City that revolve around increasing biodiversity and human well being in Melbourne’s urban area.
Sarah Bekessy presented research led by Luis Mata* that aims to quantify biodiversity changes in a network of greening intervention sites.
With the rapid and pervasive urbanisation of the planet, urban ecosystems are increasingly being valued for their biodiversity, human health and wellbeing outcomes. Enthusiasm for greening in cities is growing around the world, as is interest from conservation scientists and stakeholders working in urban environments to incorporate greening into the design of cities. Yet, while a strong body of evidence is mounting for the social and ecological co-benefits of existing urban green spaces, very few studies have quantified the changes in biodiversity that may occur after a greening intervention takes place, and no studies have investigated these changes in a systematic, experimental way using standardised survey methodologies across a wide range of different interventions.
Luis’ research has been specifically conceived to quantify the before and after changes in biodiversity resulting from a series of greening intervention sites that are presently been undertaken across a series of urban green spaces in Metropolitan Melbourne. With the support of the National Environmental Science Programme – Clean Air and Urban Landscapes Hub industry, government and community partners, a Network of Greening Intervention Sites (NGIS) has been established, including numerous sites in the City of Melbourne. These sites will be used to demonstrate the positive outcomes that greening has on beneficial insect, including native pollinators such as bees and butterflies, birds and other taxa. Findings will help guide management actions aimed at supporting existing biodiversity and bringing locally extinct species back into our cities.
* contributing researchers: Ashley Olson, Anna Backstrom, Tessa Smith, Kirsten Parris and Sarah Bekessy.
Holly Kirk presented research on behalf of a number of collaborators* entitled Our City’s Little Gems.
Following the success of “The Little Things that Run the City” insect ecology, biodiversity and conservation research project (2015-16), the Interdisciplinary Conservation Science Research Group at RMIT University and the City Of Melbourne extended this research to include butterflies. In addition to being eye-catching animals, butterflies play a key role as pollinators. Yet, despite their visibility, relatively little is known about the interactions between different plant and butterfly species, particularly in urban habitats with a mix of native and introduced vegetation.
During January 2017, flower and butterfly surveys were conducted in 15 public green spaces across the City of Melbourne, observing over 20 000 flowers in bloom. Of the 21 butterfly species or species groups identified from historic records, eleven were observed during these surveys. From these data key plant-butterfly interactions have been identified. These will help provide recommendations which can be used to guide management actions and strategies aimed at strengthening existing butterfly populations, and potentially attract additional butterfly species into the city.
* contributing researchers: Tessa Smith, Anna Backstrom, Alejandra Morán-Ordóñez, Georgia Garrard, Ascelin Gordon, Christopher Ives, Sarah Bekessy and Luis Mata.
Freya Thomas presented on behalf of a range of collaborators and industry partners* a new project about Designing green spaces for biodiversity and human wellbeing.
The health and wellbeing of urban residents is intrinsically linked to urban green spaces and their biodiversity. Yet, very little is known about the causal mechanisms and pathways linking green space design to biodiversity and human wellbeing benefits. The ‘Designing green spaces for biodiversity and human wellbeing’ ARC-Linkage Project proposes to untangle some of these mechanisms though strong industry partnerships with The City of Melbourne, Arup, Phillip Johnson Landscapes and Greening Australia. Through an experimental approach revolving around modular green space plots the project aims to: (1) investigate the mechanisms linking green space design to biodiversity outcomes; (2) investigate the mechanisms linking green space to human wellbeing; and (3) develop best practice urban design guidelines that reflect these mechanisms and supports biodiversity and human wellbeing.
Initial concepts were presented of the experimental approach based on controlled, manipulative field experiments, as well as the conceptual framework, which links green space design to (1) biodiversity, through the ecological niche theory; and (2) human wellbeing, through the stress reduction and attention restoration theories. Understanding the causal links between urban design and benefits to biodiversity and human wellbeing is critical to underpin evidence-based policy around green spaces. The findings from this research will enable industry partners, including the City of Melbourne, to demonstrate the value of good urban design and access to nature, thereby raising the profile of urban biodiversity for city residents and exploring the potential for new opportunities for urban greening.
* contributing researchers and partners: Luis Mata, Katherine Berthon, Adrian Dyer, Fiona Fidler, Richard Fuller, Jair Garcia, Georgia Garrard, Ascelin Gordon, Vaughn Greenhill, Lee Harrison, Dieter Hochuli, Christopher Ives, Sacha Jellinek, Phillip Johnson, Cecily Maller, Rodney van der Ree, Rob Turk and Sarah Bekessy.
The Biodiversity Research and Monitoring Forum in The City of Melbourne was a great space to communicate our research and hear about other research going on in The City.