Balancing greener, denser cities

Denser cities can offer many advantages, including better housing affordability, shorter commutes and more social interaction. But increased density can come at an environmental cost by reducing a city’s urban vegetation. So how can we strike a balance between density and greenery?

In partnership with CSIRO, CAUL-Hub researchers have developed a model that can help planners assess the impact of proposed developments on urban forest cover. In a new paper, researchers used the tool to predict the effect of increased housing densities on tree canopy cover in a prominent Perth suburb in 30 years’ time. It is hoped the model can help planners to deliver more sustainable designs and plan for ways to mitigate the loss of urban vegetation. 

Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash

Bringing nature back into cities

The Bosco Verticale (Vertical Forest) in Milan, Italy is a pair of residential skyscrapers famed for the hundreds of trees and plants it houses. It’s an example of how cities across the world are engaging in actions to reverse the trend of native species loss.

To contribute to the emerging pathway of research and practice that advocates for bringing nature back into cities, a new  paper in People and Nature led by the CAUL Hub’s Dr Luis Mata in collaboration with a team of Indigenous and non-Indigenous researchers has outlined seven key areas to help guide policy makers, professionals and the general public.

These include acknowledging the sovereignty of local and Indigenous knowledge systems, engaging with built-environment professionals considering the needs of species other than humans in urban design, and evaluating the success of bringing nature back actions. It’s hoped the framework will encourage organisations and individuals to think creatively about the ways rare and locally extinct species can be returned to urban environments. 

Photo by Daryan Shamkhali on Unsplash

Looking to makeover your garden? Don’t forget the humble nature strip

When you think about street verges or nature strips, you may think there’s not much to be inspired by. But there is a growing number of keen gardeners who see these spaces as blank canvases ready to be transformed.

While councils have different rules to manage street verges, more are starting to offer incentives, initiatives and support programs to transform these neglected spaces. CAUL-Hub researcher Dr Natasha Pauli is looking at the opportunities and challenges of native verge gardening for residents, key stakeholders and the plants and animals that use these habitats.

Early results show many residents are motivated to start a native verge garden to save water, experience visiting wildlife and by the social interaction created with neighbours passing by for a chat while out ‘on the verge’. The research, which will be available at the end of the year, can help stakeholders and residents design programs and verges to maximise community interest and environmental goals. 

Image: ‘Colonised Verge’ by Michael Coghlan, available at, licenced under CC BY-SA 2.0. Full terms:

April 2020 Urban Beat

A home of your own with enough room to host a barbecue and for the kids to roam. It’s a dream many still aspire to despite our growing population and changing lifestyles. So how can we make apartment living more appealing?

CAUL-Hub researcher Dr Cristina Ramalho says a planning strategy known as Greenspace-Orientated Development could help increase density in Australian suburbs. The strategy focuses on redesigning parks so that they can deliver more socio-ecological benefits to residents living in surrounding units and apartments.

The strategy is featured in the latest issue of Urban Beat which looks at how urban design can shape better cities for people and for biodiversity. You’ll also read about a new navigation platform mapping cooler routes, how we can improve the air we breathe, and opportunities to intertwine Aboriginal ecological knowledge into green urban design. 

The challenges facing council greening policies

As Australian cities continue to grow and change, green spaces are becoming more important than ever. Green cities are healthier and more pleasant places to live, for people and wildlife alike.

But green space is often seen as easily replaceable when it ‘gets in the way’ of new developments and infrastructure. In a new paper, CAUL hub researcher Dr Judy Bush looks at the role local government can play in increasing urban greening. Parks, gardens, living green roofs and other green spaces are high on the agenda of many councils.

Using several councils in Melbourne as a case study, Judy found that there is a gap between ambitious greening strategies and implementation. The research shows plans for greening are often constrained by a lack of resources and skills, and when they are executed are not properly evaluated. Read more here. 

Photo by Steven Shaffer on Unsplash