Shared Study Sites


Project 6: Social and Biodiversity Benefits of Urban Greening - A network of Integrated Study Sites

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.

Integrated study sites require strong collaborative planning with local stakeholders to understand the actors, drivers, successes and barriers of different urban greening initiatives but they will provide an evidence base for the comparison of biodiversity, community and ecosystem service benefits of different urban greening initiatives according to landscape context, and scale.  They will hopefully act as a unifying activity across all themes in the CAUL Hub to provide a unique and truly multi-disciplinary assessment of urban greening initiatives and highlight the need to address competing objectives through scientific process understanding, optimisation and compromise.

PROJECT LEADERS

Cecily Maller, RMIT
Luis Mata, RMIT
Natasha Pauli, UWA

SUBPROJECTS

6.1 -  Towards an Indigenous-led research agenda
6.2 - From footpaths to ecosystems: understanding the role of the verge in delivering urban ecosystem services
6.3 - Social and biodiversity benefits of the Upper Stony Creek Transformation Project
6.4 - Biodiversity benefits of specific site-based greening actions

RESEARCH TEAM

Libby Porter
Stephanie Beaupark
Cathy Oke
Jirra Harvey
Cristina Ramalho
Bryan Boruff
Christine Groom
Leila Farahani
Kathryn Williams
Nick Williams
Kirsten Parris
Kate Lee
Pia Lentini
Judy Bush
Katherine Lewisohn
Sarah Bekessy

Subprojects

6.1 - Towards an Indigenous-led research agenda

Project leader: Cathy Oke, UoM

The Hub is working to position Indigenous knowledge as critical in environmental research, showing a cross-cultural commitment to Caring for Country. Environmental research and Indigenous philosophies represent complex knowledge systems. Both have much to offer broad audiences but can seem inaccessible. CAUL is collaborating with Indigenous story telling experts to expand our research on and share widely how university-based knowledge systems are coming to recognise Indigenous knowledge and authority in urban environments through projects undertaken at CAUL since 2015. This approach will provide a greater understanding of Indigenous perspectives of CAUL’s research and approach to Indigenous engagement and participation (IEP), which is a critical next step in our Indigenous-led research agenda.

CAUL’s Indigenous Advisory Group will guide this project, as an extension to 2017 and 2018’s Towards an Indigenous-led research agenda outlined in RPv3’s Project 4. In RPv3 Professor Porter and Lauren Arabena’s research considered how to rethink CAUL’s research from the principles of being ‘Indigenous-led’. Over 2017 they held workshops with Indigenous professionals in the built environment, Traditional Custodians and non-Indigenous university researchers on what it means to move beyond a model of ‘inclusion’ of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in research and teaching especially within an urban context. This knowledge translation phase will distribute the findings from this research and other IEP Category 1 and 2 projects to a wide range of stakeholders, Indigenous and non- Indigenous.

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

Project leader: Natasha Pauli, UWA

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 focused on street trees. However, a street verge can also include ground covers, shrubs, and the underlying soil. Evidence-based, policy-focused 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.

A community garden/nature strip in Brunswick, Melbourne. Credit: TEDxMelbourne via flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

This subproject investigates 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. it takes a multidisciplinary approach and will include the establishment of a network of street verges planted with native and waterwise species. Research activities will include: i) reviewing local government authorities (LGA) use and management of street verges in selected cities, and identifying exemplar case studies for in-depth analysis as shared study sites; ii) consultation with LGAs and key stakeholders regarding the role of street verges in urban greening and biodiversity; iii) soliciting and analysing community views and use patterns of street verges (including plant selection, water and nutrient use); iv) exploring geospatial and field-based methods for assessing geographic patterns in street verge patterns; and v) assessing the above-ground biodiversity and habitat values associated with exemplar street verges including the impact of spatial arrangement of habitat patches. The key outcome of the research will be to provide recommendations for management of street verges and streetscapes in Australian cities.

6.3 - Social and biodiversity benefits of the Upper Stony Creek Transformation Project

Project leader: Cecily Maller, RMIT

The long-term goal of this research project is to determine the impact of a major urban greening project (Upper Stony Creek Transformation) on residents, with a focus on human health and wellbeing, and biodiversity related outcomes associated with the revitalisation of an urban wetland and waterway. This subproject is based on a pre- and post-greening longitudinal design to measure social and biodiversity dimensions to compare baseline and medium, long and short-term outcomes.

The social science component pre-greening included a resident survey on psychological, social, physical health benefits and in-person interviews about residents’ perceptions of their neighbourhood, the Creek, green spaces and biodiversity, and their health and wellbeing. Seasonal site observations were also undertaken. The survey included questions about residents’ existing use of natural areas including the Creek, their level of physical activity, mental health and wellbeing (subjective well-being, levels of depression, stress and anxiety), connection with nature, and attitudes towards the local area and the environment. Recruitment and data management was designed to provide scope for recontact of participants in the future. Data was geocoded for residence, allowing analysis of benefits relative to proximity to the Upper Stony Creek Transformation Project. Twenty interviews were conducted in residents’ homes whose dwellings were in closest proximity to the Creek. The interviews used a semistructured format and included questions on residents’ knowledge and use of green spaces in the local area including Upper Stony Creek, what types of activities they use these spaces for, their preferences and concerns about local plants and animals, and their health and wellbeing. The interviews and survey formed Stage 1 (pre-greening) to provide baseline data prior to full implementation of the Upper Stony Creek Transformation project. Further stages (post-greening) are planned but dependent on the timing and completion of the initiative (due to be completed September 2019) and the availability of further partner funds to complete further research. The biodiversity component included plant-insect and plant-bird ecological interactions surveys as per Project 6.4. At present, there is no capacity to capture the cultural benefits specifically for Indigenous stakeholders. This is likely to be pursued in the future, dependent on co-funding. 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.

For more information, check out this pamphlet on the Upper Stony Creek Transformation project.

The Upper Stony Creek site. Credit: Leila Farahani

6.4 - Biodiversity benefits of specific site-based greening actions

Project leader: Luis Mata, RMIT

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.

A blue-banded bee spotted at Westgate Park. Credit: Luis Mata via flickr

The sites and associate activity is listed below:

  1. Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheenner Marker. A greening action and public artwork developed by the City of Melbourne to commemorate Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheenner, two Tasmanian Aboriginal men who were publicly hanged in Melbourne in 1842. The key partner is Melbourne City Council. The baseline data for the Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheenner site was collected just before the site was transformed in April 2016. Postgreening surveys were successfully completed in 2017 and 2018. Another post-greening survey will occur in 2019
  2. Westgate Park Southern Grassland. The key partner in this site is the Friends of Westgate Park, as part of broader collaboration with the City of Melbourne entitled ‘Providing for pollinators in Westgate Park’. Baseline biodiversity data for the Southern Grassland site was collected before the site was transformed in the Winter of 2017. Post-greening surveys were successfully completed in 2018, and are planned to continue for 2019. While in-kind support for this subproject is provided by the CAUL Hub, the field work component of this research is being funded by the Friends of Westgate Park.
  3. University Square transformation project. Baseline biodiversity data for University Square was collected as part of The Little Things that Run the City project (a component of subproject 5.4) in 2015 and again in 2018. Further post-greening surveys are unlikely due to site access limitations.
  4. City of Melbourne laneways and streetscape projects. The key partner is Melbourne City Council. A total of eight small-scale sites form part of this subproject, including: Guilford Lane, Meyers Place, Coromandel Place, Katherine Place, Arden Street, Clowes Street, Park Street and Docklands Drive. Baseline biodiversity data for these eight sites was collected in 2017 prior to any transformations. Post-greening surveys were conducted in 2018, as well as further pregreening surveys, as not all sites had been transformed by 2018 as planned. Further postgreening surveys are planned for 2019.
  5. City of Melbourne 2017-18 MPavilion installation. The key partner is Melbourne City Council. Biodiversity data for the 2017-18 MPavilion site was collected in Spring of 2018. No further surveys are planned for this site, as the 2017-28 MPavilion was moved to another location in February of 2018.
  6. Fraser Street transformation project. The key partner is the City of Moonee Valley. Baseline biodiversity data for the Fraser Street site was collected before the site was transformed in Autumn of 2017. Post-greening surveys were successfully completed in 2018, and are planned for 2019. While in-kind support for this subproject is provided by the CAUL Hub, the field work component of this research is being funded by the City of Moonee Valley.
  7. City of Moreland greening initiatives. The key partner is the City of Moreland. There are two sites being investigated, Sheils Reserve and JP Fawkner Reserve. Baseline biodiversity surveys were conducted in Spring-Summer 2018. Post-greening surveys are planned for 2019.

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).

Banner image: native bee on non-native dandelion. Credit: Luis Mata.