Shared Study Sites

Project 6: Social, cultural and biodiversity benefits of urban greening: An integrated network of sites

The overarching aim of Project 6 was to establish an integrated network of urban greening study sites across Australian cities to understand, quantify and qualify the multiple benefits of urban greening, focussing on social, cultural and biodiversity outcomes. Taking a multidisciplinary methodological approach, an important output from this project was a series of standardised methods and approaches that can be adapted for use at diverse urban greening projects at a range of different sites and scales.

Project 6 fostered collaborations between CAUL Hub researchers and Indigenous story telling experts to showcase how university-based knowledge systems are coming to recognise Indigenous knowledge and authority in urban environments. This approach provided a greater understanding of Indigenous perspectives of CAUL’s research and approach to Indigenous engagement and participation (IEP).


Cecily Maller, RMIT
Luis Mata, formerly RMIT, now UoM
Natasha Pauli, UWA


6.1Towards an Indigenous-led research and professional practice ✅
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


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


6.1 - Towards Indigenous-led research and professional practice

Subproject leader: Libby Porter, RMIT

Australian urban environments are situated on unceded traditional lands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities. Urban planning and design professionals have a responsibility to include Indigenous voices and perspectives in their practice. This subproject  examined critical research and practice needs for urban environment professionals to improve their understanding and practice in relation to Indigenous engagement aspirations and requirements. Researchers reviewed both existing research on best-practice approaches to understanding the responsibility of urban environment practitioners to Indigenous sovereignty, as well as current practices in the sector. This led to the development of a series of resources intended to provide urban professionals with roadmaps for practice change. These resources will support professionals and accreditation bodies to deepen and extend professional capacity for Indigenous engagement.

In 2019, CAUL launched the Three-Category Approach toolkit – a workbook and workshop guiding non-Indigenous researchers and practitioners in supporting Indigenous-led research and co-design. The approach can be applied to a wide range of areas, including Reconciliation Action Plans, academic research, policy and practice.

Key outputs

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

Subproject leader: Natasha Pauli, UWA

There is a growing trend for Australian suburbanites to plant a colourful palette of low-growing native plants along the nature strip (or verge) in front of their home. CAUL research uncovered the benefits and challenges of these garden makeovers.

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

Researchers interviewed residents engaged in verge gardening and mapped and surveyed their verges for plants and pollinators such as bees and birds. They found households gained a variety of benefits from verge gardening, including personal satisfaction, shade and cooling, privacy, connection to nature and even social interaction. Researchers also uncovered a range of encouraging biodiversity benefits. Insect surveys found evidence of native bees, flower-visiting wasps and hoverflies visiting flowering native plants in street verge gardens. A companion report highlighted that almost all of the 31 local councils in Perth now permit native verge gardens, with interest from residents expected to increase.

Key outputs

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

Subproject leader: Cecily Maller, RMIT

The long-term goal of this subproject was to determine the impact of major urban greening projects on residents, with a focus on human health and wellbeing, and biodiversity related outcomes associated with the revitalisation of urban greenspaces and waterways. Studies were conducted at two sites, Upper Stony Creek in Sunshine North and Sheils Reserve in Brunswick West (both in Victoria). The methods used included resident surveys on psychological, social, physical health benefits (Upper Stony Creek only) and in-person interviews about residents’ perceptions of their neighbourhood, green spaces and biodiversity, and their health and wellbeing. The biodiversity component at both sites included plant-insect and plant-bird ecological interactions surveys.

Key outputs:

The Upper Stony Creek site. Credit: Leila Farahani

6.4 - Biodiversity benefits of specific site-based greening actions

Subproject leader: Luis Mata, formerly RMIT, now UoM

CAUL researchers 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). This subproject strengthened this research by expanding this network in Melbourne, as well as other Australian cities, and established key sites for long-term monitoring. This subproject involved 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. It determined 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

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