This project aims to establish a network of integrated urban greening study sites to understand, quantify and qualify the multiple benefits of urban greening, including for biodiversity outcomes and for human health and wellbeing.

  • Project dates: 2018

Project Summary

Project 6 aims to establish a network of integrated urban greening study sites from across CAUL to understand, quantify and qualify the multiple benefits of urban greening, including for biodiversity outcomes and for human health and wellbeing using multidisciplinary methods and across multiple sites. It will develop sampling protocols and approaches that can be used for different urban greening projects at a range of different sites and scales.

Project Description

Subproject 6.1 – Understanding and measuring the socio-ecological benefits of greening actions

There is a worldwide enthusiasm for renaturing cities and incorporating greening into urban design. However, no studies have investigated the social and ecological changes occurring after greening actions take place using standardised methods across a range of sites. The CAUL Hub has worked closely with partners in Melbourne to quantify the before and after biodiversity changes across a Network of Integrated Study Sites, including the Upper Stony Creek transformation project (subproject 6.3). We propose to strengthen this research by expanding this network in Melbourne, as well as other Australian cities, and establishing key sites for long-term monitoring.

This subproject will involve pre- and post-action biodiversity surveys completed for a number of sites established in 2016 as well as new sites identified in 2017 and 2018. These include ecological surveys to record plant-insect and plant-bird interactions. Plant-insect interactions to be monitored will include interactions between plants and both mutualistic (e.g. pollinators such as bees, hoverflies and butterflies) and antagonistic (e.g. herbivores such as leaf beetles and leafhoppers) partners. Bird surveys will include documenting the numerous behaviours that birds express as they interact with plants and other elements of our study sites. Insect and bird surveys will be undertaken using a suite of active (e.g. sweep-netting) and passive (e.g. direct observations and point count surveys) standard techniques. Collected insects will be identified to species or, where that is not possible, morphospecies level. We will conduct adequate temporal replicates to allow our statistical methods to account for imperfect detection. Surveys will be undertaken from late-spring to mid-summer. This subprojectIt will determine the biodiversity impacts of urban greening projects based around waterways and the capacity of these projects to encourage a range of species to return to suburban areas.

Subproject 6.2 – From footpaths to ecosystems: understanding the role of the verge in delivering urban ecosystem services

Street verges can play a key role in providing greenspace and ecosystem services through shading and reducing heat, allowing for water infiltration and reducing run-off, giving habitat for wildlife, providing an amenity for residents including food production and connection with nature. There is a rapidly evolving area of policy change and community interest in the way that street verges are managed and used. To date, most research on street verges has necessarily focussed on street trees. However, a street verge can also include ground covers, shrubs, and the underlying soil. Evidence-based, policy-focussed research on the role of the entire street verge in providing a variety of ecosystem services is needed, especially as vegetation loss continues on private land as a result of densification and infill.

This proposed project will investigate the value of the street verge system for promoting urban greening and biodiversity and increasing community cohesion, focussing on the lower vegetation and ground strata. The need to examine how physical vegetation barriers along roadways enhance air quality was highlighted in the roadshows, as was the need for incorporating Indigenous perspectives on the uses of native flora.

Subproject 6.3 – Social and biodiversity benefits of the Upper Stony Creek Transformation Project (formerly part of Project 3.6)

The long-term goal of this research project is to determine the impact of a major urban greening project (Upper Stony Creek Transformation project) on residents of this area, with a focus on human health and wellbeing, and biodiversity related outcomes.

This subproject uses a pre- and post-greening longitudinal design to measure social and biodiversity dimensions. The research uses a multi-method longitudinal design based on interviews and surveys (ecological and social) to compare baseline and medium, long and short term outcomes. The social science component includes a resident survey on psychological, social, physical health benefits and in-person interviews about residents’ perceptions of their neighbourhood, greenspaces and biodiversity, and their health and wellbeing. Seasonal site observations will also be undertaken.

Outcomes

  • Better understanding of the ecological and biodiversity benefits of urban greening initiatives, with a special interest in the benefits provided by bringing local, indigenous species back into urban environments to assist in decision making (all subprojects)
  • Development of standardised biodiversity sampling methods which can be used to build up a significant knowledge base of the positive and other impacts of urban greening on ecological communities and networks (6.1, 6.3)
  • Help decision makers increase the biodiversity potential of future green space initiatives through greater knowledge about which species are encouraged to return (6.1)
  • New knowledge to assist in evidence-based policy-making for enhancing the ecological role of street verges, including a typology of street verges (6.2)
  • Increased use of verge systems focused on lower vegetation and ground strata for promoting urban greening, biodiversity and community benefits and in particular flora of importance for local Indigenous stakeholders (6.2)
  • Provision of recommendations for management of street verges and streetscapes in Australian cities to promote the use of native plants, including flora of importance to local Indigenous stakeholders (6.2)
  • New knowledge about the biodiversity and human health and wellbeing impacts of urban waterway greening initiatives and the enhancement of green space and habitat in deprived suburbs (6.1, 6.3)
  • Establishment of standardised mixed-method approaches to measure the health and wellbeing impacts of urban greening initiatives that can be used to monitor and evaluate projects (6.3)
  • Documentation and dissemination of the Upper Stony Creek collaborative process to determine the value for the approach to be transferred to other contexts, including the development of a monitoring and evaluation framework (6.3)
  • Establishment of an evidence base for the biodiversity and human health and wellbeing and social outcomes from urban greening initiatives (all subprojects).
  • Identify species of cultural importance to Indigenous communities that can be used to inform future research projects and decision making (all subprojects)

Key People

Lead researchers

Dr Luis Mata

Dr Luis Mata

Research Fellow – National Environmental Science Programme – Clean Air and Urban Landscapes Hub

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Dr Cecily Maller

Dr Cecily Maller

Vice Chancellor’s Senior Research Fellow

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Network of Integrated Study Sites

Natasha Pauli

Lecturer, School of Agriculture and Environment

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