Category Archives: New report

ICON tells Victoria’s Parliament to ‘walk the walk’ on urban greening

The ICON Science group has submitted our response to the Parliament of Victoria’s ‘Inquiry into Environmental Infrastructure for Growing Populations’. Our city has grown rapidly – has our access to nature kept up? 

It’s commendable that our leaders have turned their minds to this topic, as COVID-19 has reminded us of the enormous importance of natural capital such as local parks to people’s well-being. While green open spaces kept many of us healthy and happy through lockdown, Melbourne’s ‘environmental infrastructure’ could be better. RMIT research demonstrates that the city lost 2000ha of tree cover between 2014-2018, and many residents do not have a substantial green space in walking distance of home, as demonstrated by research by our colleagues in the Australian Urban Observatory. Many of the parts of the city with the least access to environmental infrastructure are also the city’s most socially disadvantaged, as demonstrated in the grey areas in the map below, prepared by researchers at ICON lab.  

It’s clear that we have some catching up to do, but how we do that is important. In our submission to the Inquiry into Environment Infrastructure, we wanted to ensure that tree canopy was considered ‘environmental infrastructure’ – there’s much more to urban nature than just grass and footy ovals. We have also highlighted that while efforts to increase green infrastructure should be ramped up, ensuring that they are of value to biodiversity and are easily accessible is equally important. These assets not only deliver health and social benefits, but also generate jobs and promote economic activities. In fact, they build safety nets and strengthen resilience of people, biodiversity, and ecosystems to shocks.

Many of the pieces are in place to improve the city’s environmental infrastructure. Melbourne has developed high-quality plans for urban nature, such as The Living Melbourne Strategy and the draft Metropolitan Open Space Strategy – we have the right words on paper. In the wake of COVID, now is the time “walk the talk”. Quick translation of such plans into action through expedited funding, resourcing, and removal of institutional barriers is of paramount importance.

You can read our submission here

The Little Things that Run the City

The little things that run the city 201115 (lowres)-1

How many insect species live in your city? How are they distributed amongst the city’s green spaces? What are the ecological processes they perform and ecosystem services they deliver? What are their most frequent ecological interactions?

The Little Things that Run the City is a project that aims to address these and other questions within the boundaries of the City of Melbourne, Australia. Results stemming from this research are contributing to identify particular insects with key functional roles that benefit human city dwellers, determine where to prioritise conservation activities, guide the design and maintenance of green spaces, and assist city’s decision-makers in considering insects in broader biodiversity plans and strategies.

The project was inspired by Edward O. Wilson’s famous quote “…let me say a word on behalf of these little things that run the world”. Almost 30 years ago, he was keen to see that the circle of concern for animal conservation was beginning to encompass non-vertebrate animalsIn this project we sought to further expand this circle so that it may also encompass the conservation of insects and other invertebrates in urban environments. Join us as we say a word on behalf of the little things that run the city.

Cover artwork by Kate Cranney.