Residential wild-life gardening for collaborative public-private biodiversity conservation

In cities, matching conservation action is needed on public and private land to conserve biodiversity: protecting patches of native habitat on public land, extending buffers around them, and improving connections between them through corridors and stepping stones in gardens and other land-use areas.

Urban populations continue to grow, disrupting the fabric of the ecosystems surrounding them (Farinha-Marques, Lameiras, Fernandes, Silva, & Guilherme, 2011; Kowarik, 2011). These cannot be restored to their previous state and are affected by social and ecological interactions that are hard to predict or understand. Residents can lose connections with local nature that can help their physical, mental and spiritual well-being (Soga & Gaston, 2016).

They are often disconnected from conservation, believing it to be the work of experts and parks staff. Empowering communities to foster their local biodiversity is a key principle of biodiversity conservation, yet how to do so remains poorly understood (Shwartz, Turbé, Julliard, Simon, & Prévot, 2014).

In cities, matching conservation action is needed on public and private land to conserve biodiversity: protecting patches of native habitat on public land, extending buffers around them, and improving connections between them through corridors and stepping stones in gardens and other land-use areas. Residential gardens are important because they occupy a large portion of urban land, meaning that they rest on valuable space for conservation work. (Mathieu, Freeman, & Aryal, 2007). They can provide habitat or habitat features important for the survival of indigenous species (Goddard, Dougill, & Benton, 2010), and many households can have them.

In our paper, Wildlife gardening for collaborative public-private biodiversity conservation, we explored how a collaboration between Knox City Council and a community group (Knox Environment Society – KES) in greater Melbourne involved residents in gardening to help conserve indigenous species. The program, Knox Gardens for Wildlife (G4W), currently has over 700 participating households and began in 2006. Wildlife gardening includes removing weeds, planting indigenous species and vegetation (e.g. a prickly thicket for birds), retaining nesting trees and hollows, adding water features, and preserving self-seeding indigenous species.

We used interviews of sixteen G4W members, supplemented by a Council survey of G4W members, to identify key program features that helped members change their gardening to help Council and KES foster indigenous biodiversity. We found these features to be: an inspiring interactive garden assessment; a community nursery; communication hubs; a framework that fosters observational learning and community links; and valuing each garden’s potential contribution.

Collaborative wildlife gardening programs can involve urban residents to manage their land to help their council and community to conserve indigenous species. This includes residents who did not know about or were not already interested in how to do this. In addition to ecological benefits, the program builds relationships between members, the community group, and council around a shared interest in conserving their municipality’s wildlife.

The pathway shown by this case study is currently being used in a recently launched initiative, Gardens for Wildlife Victoria, to support local government community group partnerships to help residents care for nature through gardening and other habitat improvement activities. Wildlife gardening actions included removing environmental weeds, planting indigenous species and vegetative structure (for example prickly thicket for small birds), retaining nesting trees and hollows, adding water features, and preserving self-seeding indigenous species.

We found the key program features to be an inspiring and motivational interactive garden assessment; a community nursery; communication hubs; a framework that fosters experiential learning and community linkages; and endorsement of each garden’s potential contribution. We conclude that collaborative wildlife gardening programs can engage urban residents to manage their land to help council and community to conserve indigenous biota, including residents without prior intention or knowledge of gardening for conservation.

Beyond stimulating and supporting members to wildlife garden, the program builds relationships between participating members, the community group, and council around a shared interest in fostering the municipality’s wildlife. Residential involvement is supported by tangible involvement of community members and local government.


Recommended Paper Citation:
Mumaw, L., & Bekessy, S. (2017). Wildlife gardening for collaborative public–private biodiversity conservation. Australasian

First published in The Urban Observer

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