CAUL Hub Project 3: Urban Greening for Liveability and Biodiversity Project
Project Leader: Cristina Ramalho, The University of Western Australia
Project Deputy Leader: Judy Bush, The University of Melbourne
Green cities are healthier and more pleasant places to live, for people and other organisms. We know that rapid environmental change (e.g. urban heat and climate change) and social change (e.g. densification, cultural diversification) are occurring. This project will develop guidelines and knowledge to help govern, manage, monitor and evaluate Australia's urban green spaces in a landscape of change.
Urban green spaces contribute a myriad of ecosystem services such as ameliorating the urban heat island effect, reducing peaks in stormwater runoff, absorbing air pollution, providing habitat for biodiversity and reducing energy used for cooling and heating. Furthermore, exposure to nature and urban green spaces deliver a range of human well-being benefits including increased activity and reduced real and perceived stress which can contribute to improved mental and physical health outcomes.
Due to these benefits there is growing enthusiasm for urban greening in cities around the world and an associated interest from planning and landscape practitioners in understanding the best ways to incorporate and maintain vegetation in cities.
Two major learnings from the first two years of research conducted through CAUL's Urban Greening for Liveability and Biodiversity Project are:
- There are challenges in managing trade-offs between the multiple benefits (e.g. health and wellbeing, biodiversity, ecosystem services) from urban greening; and
- Governance and management of urban greening is happening in a rapidly changing social and ecological environment (e.g. climate change, densification), and therefore historic knowledge is likely to be less useful in guiding future activities.
The project will address this problem through five subprojects.
Subproject 3.3 - Understanding the psycho-social dimensions of urban greening
Little is known about how effectively different kinds of urban green space support psycho-social benefits. Furthermore, different human communities in different urban locations (i.e., inner, middle and outer areas of a city) may prefer and benefit differentially from different forms of urban greening, yet there is little understanding of the nature of these relationships. Currently, decision makers must act in the absence of guidance on how different attributes, quality or types of urban greening impact on communities for whom they plan across different urban environments. A key priority for this project is to better understand how urban green spaces, and the different vegetation types within them (e.g. trees, understorey, groundcovers) provide these psycho-social benefits, how different qualities, characteristics or types of urban green spaces influence psycho-social benefits and how different social groups experience these benefits.
Subproject 3.8 - Green space governance in a changing green urban landscape
Urban green space in public parks and streetscapes and private gardens provides multiple benefits for city dwellers. Recognition of this multi-functionality is bringing opportunities for inclusion of green space across policy domains, but also presents challenges for largely monofunctional governance, management and budgetary systems. Green spaces are governed by a complex set of institutions including Local Government Areas (LGAs), government agencies, Non-Government Organisations (NGOs), nursery growers, landscape architects, and community groups including local people and traditional owners. These challenges are potentially amplified by the impacts of climate change and urban densification. This project will develop guidelines, tools and frameworks for multifunctional governance and participatory approaches that link policy domains, facilitate green space management and evidence-based policy processes. A key knowledge gap identified by end users that will be addressed in this research is the need for mechanisms to improve public participation and inclusion in green space decision-making processes.
Subproject 3.9 - Informing management of changing urban green spaces
Expected changes to urban green spaces driven by climate, demographic change and urban densification have enormous implications for urban land managers and our cities. There is currently little guidance to inform management of green space (e.g. plant selection, site amelioration) in a changing environment to maintain and enhance the multifunctional benefits it provides. This project will further knowledge of the likely changes to species, resources and conditions facing urban green space managers, initially through a horizon scanning exercise involving end-users and researchers from CAUL and other institutions. This exercise will canvass a range of issues including changing climate, urban densification, demographic change, water and waterways issues, biodiversity and human health and wellbeing. This project will also extend the work done in RPv3 (on species climate change risks and function-attributes) by identifying the green space benefits at risk from increasing temperatures, and identify new species potentially suitable for future climates and harsh urban environments that could maintain or enhance these benefits. These outcomes will build capacity in urban green space management and inform future management of urban green spaces across Australia.
Subproject 3.10 - Monitoring and Evaluation of multifunctional green space at different scales
Existing methods of measuring green space have largely focussed on simple measures of land cover (e.g. tree canopy) or land use (e.g. access to parks). Increased recognition of the multifunctional benefits of urban green space demands different kinds of monitoring and evaluation measures that can act as indicators of multi-benefits at different scales - from sites, to suburbs to cities. A range of domains including cooling, biodiversity, human health and wellbeing, flood risk and water quality need to be addressed. Through a desktop exercise, researchers will synthesize existing knowledge in the academic literature, and in practice on green space indicators, and monitoring and evaluation of these indicators at different scales, from sites to suburbs to cities to the national level. A workshop bringing together researchers, end users and other stakeholders that will be used to identify requirements for an end-user relevant monitoring and evaluation framework. From this synthesis and workshop, a green space monitoring and evaluation framework and guideline will be developed. The outputs from this subproject will contribute to Australia understanding how it meets its target for Sustainable Development Goal 11 of providing universal access to green and public open spaces.
Subproject 3.11 - Species selection for the urban forest - biodiversity considerations
Worldwide, the urban forest is increasingly recognized as a tool to mitigate the impacts of the urban heat island (UHI) and climate change. In Australia, most capital cities and respective LGAs are in the process of implementing their urban forest plans. However, there is a recognized lack of a scientific-driven framework that provides a solid foundation to interventions within and across different cities. Subproject 3.9 will focus on species suitability for the urban forest from the perspective of their vulnerability to future climates. Subproject 3.11 intends to explore biodiversity-related aspects that should also be considered in species selection. In particular, this sub-project will focus on the Perth and Peel Metropolitan Regions, which are located on the southwest Australia global biodiversity hotspot. This region has a Mediterranean drying climate with increasing fire risk, some of the highest rates of insect and bird plant pollination in the world, ground-water dependent ecosystems, and two iconic endangered black cockatoos that use urban trees as important food resources. This research project will synthesize existing knowledge on urban forestry in areas of significant biodiversity conservation concern, and develop a framework to guide urban forest interventions in these areas to better consider biodiversity, while still considering fire risk, human health and wellbeing and ecosystem service provision.
Expected OutcomesFor practice:
- Strengthen and facilitate green space governance and contribute to adaptation to future landscape and urban change (3.8).
- Increase the sustainability of future green space plantings through the use of more suitable plant species (3.9).
- Improved management of multifunctional green space benefits (3.9, 3.11)
- Increased public participation and inclusion in green space governance (3.8).
- Improved ability for land managers to justify investment in green space interventions, to plan green space interventions, and to monitor the multiple outcomes of these green space interventions (3.10).
- Increased land manager awareness of biodiversity effects of urban forest interventions (3.11)
- Improved capacity of land managers to effectively govern and manage green space in a changing environment (3.8, 3.9, 3.10).
- Improved collaboration between research and practice (all subprojects).
- Furthering global scientific knowledge on the governance and management of multifunctional green space in a changing environment, and at different scales (3.8 & 3.9).
- Improved understanding of the challenges facing urban green spaces in a changing environment (3.9).
- Synthesis of knowledge on public participation and inclusion in green space governance (3.10)
- Better understanding of biodiversity effects of urban forest interventions (3.11)
This project will provide more effective use of funding and resources targeted for urban greening projects, and ecological and social gains through new urban greening opportunities measured by the positive outcomes for liveability and biodiversity.