Bridging disciplinary boundaries: the roles of governance for urban green-blue spaces

Urban green (and blue) spaces, such as parks, waterways, wetlands, street trees, gardens and nature reserves are essential elements of resilient and liveable cities. As well as being aesthetically pleasing, these spaces provide many functions and benefits for people and the other species that call our cities home. They cool our cities, treat air and water, provide space for recreation and connection, and habitat for biodiversity.

There are many different types of green-blue spaces in cities – and many different models for their governance, planning and management. Hub researcher Dr Judy Bush has investigated new approaches to governance and policies to support the creation and retention of healthy, multifunctional green-blue spaces.

The hub has released a series of new factsheets that provide an overview and definitions of ‘governance’, and how governance and policy for green-blue spaces can contribute to retaining and maximising resilient nature in cities.

Photo: Merri Creek, Melbourne by Judy Bush

Indigenous plant use

Spring has arrived and the Clean Air and Urban Landscapes Hub has a new booklet to inspire your garden plans. The new Indigenous plant use booklet, by Barkandji woman Zena Cumpston, explores the cultural, nutritional, technological and medicinal use of indigenous plants.

Chocolate Lily (Arthropodium strictum) is one of more than 50 indigenous plant species featured in the booklet. Chocolate Lily gets its name from its purple flowers (appearing in spring), which on sunny days emit a smell of chocolate and sometimes also smell much like vanilla and caramel. Chocolate Lily has grass-like leaves with edible root tubers, which are white inside and are roasted before being eaten.

The plant information in the booklet is displayed on labels that you can print, laminate and use in your own garden. These labels provide an opportunity for people to learn on Country and connect with Aboriginal knowledge of plant use. It has been designed for any individual or group interested in indigenous plant use, including schools, community groups, greening practitioners, home gardeners and their families.

Supporting a cooler, greener Melbourne

Creating a greener and ultimately cooler Melbourne is a priority for the Victorian Government. Plan Melbourne 2017-2020 will enhance the city’s urban forests to create more liveable and climate-adapted communities. To support this work, the Clean Air and Urban Landscape Hub partnered with the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, RMIT University and the CSIRO to map and analyse vegetation and assess its relationship to land use and urban heat.

As cities grow and change, tree, shrub and grass cover are often lost in the process. These maps will allow planners to precisely measure the area of vegetation at a local level, understand the relationship between urban vegetation cover and urban heat island effects, and track changes over time.

This evidence can inform greening targets, identify areas where investment is needed most, and provide a baseline to track the progress of greening strategies. Researchers also produced a vulnerability assessment to identify the areas with communities most vulnerable to heat waves.

Image: Urban greening in Melbourne CBD, photo by Briena Barrett.

Latest issue of Urban Beat: First Nations’ edition

The CAUL Hub was proud to have worked with guest editor Kirstine Wallis on the latest issue of its newsletter – Urban Beat. Kirstine is a Yorta Yorta/Palawa woman of many talents: Landscape Architect, artist, and member of the Hub’s Indigenous Advisory Group.

Reflecting on the theme Always Was, Always Will Be, this edition shares stories of First Nations’ voices in the areas of science, art and urban culture. You’ll read about the journey to create an Indigenous seasonal calendar for Sydney, an upcoming exhibition illuminating Aboriginal perspectives of plant use and agriculture practice, and one of the fastest growing forms of pollution in Australia – light pollution.

Kirstine’s vision was to create an issue that you can not only learn from, but actively engage with. You’ll find artwork to colour in, a game of bingo that we can all relate to in these challenging times, and a powerful poem inspired by the summer bushfires. Find the latest issue, here.

How the weather can influence a deadly frog fungus

The chytrid fungus has devastated amphibian populations worldwide, causing the decline of at least 500 species. While some Australian frog species have been impacted heavily by this disease, others, like Western Australia’s motorbike frog, appear to have fared better.

To investigate the prevalence of the chytrid fungus in populations of motorbike frogs, researchers from the CAUL and TSR Hubs studied environmental conditions at 45 wetlands on the Swan Coastal Plain and swabbed almost 1200 frogs.

The results, published in a new report, show that the chytrid fungus is widespread and infects motorbike frogs throughout the area. However, the prevalence of the chytrid fungus in frog populations varies spatially and temporally with variation in environmental conditions at a site and across seasons. During the winter, 57% of the frogs sampled were infected with chytrid, but in the summer this dropped to only 4%. Hot weather (above 28 oC) was strongly linked with low infection rates, and the salinity of wetlands was also found to inhibit chytrid.

Further research is needed to understand why motorbike frogs are still thriving while two closely related species (growling grass frog and green and golden bell frog) are declining, when all three species are exposed to the chytrid fungus, habitat loss and other threats.

Photo by Kirsten Parris