Shared Study Sites

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

The overarching aim of Project 6 is 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. The project takes a multidisciplinary methodological approach, with an important output from this project being a series of standardised sampling protocols that can be adapted for use at diverse urban greening projects at a range of different sites and scales.

Project 6 will foster 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 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 the CAUL Hub’s Indigenous-led research agenda.


Cecily Maller, RMIT
Luis Mata, RMIT
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




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


6.1 - Towards Indigenous-led research and professional practice

This subproject will examine critical research and practice needs for urban environment professionals in relation to Indigenous engagement aspirations and requirements. The purpose is to provide urban environment professionals with roadmaps for practice change to deepen and extend professional capacity for Indigenous engagement. The project is focused on supporting the aspiration of urban environment professionals to lift Indigenous engagement practice and capability and develop longer-term relationships and communities of practice around common concerns. It will provide urban environment practitioners with easy reference fact sheets on the current state of play in Indigenous engagement practice, and practice change options and guidelines for taking the next steps in their Indigenous engagement practice capability.

The project builds directly on the Three-Category approach and workbook and the Flipping the Table work reported in 2018. The research effort will focus initially on the key professional associations – Planning Institute of Australia (PIA), Australian Institute of Landscape Architects (AILA) and Australian Institute of Architects (AIA). Then more refined work will be undertaken in collaboration with PIA to develop a co-designed practice change options report that other professions can use as a roadmap.

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 green space 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 focussed on street trees. However, a street verge can also include ground covers, shrubs, and the underlying soil. Evidence-based, policy-focussed 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 that have been completed or largely completed as part of this project 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) an online survey of Perth LGAs asking for opportunities and challenges associated with urban greening on street verges; iii) interviews with residents on their street verge gardening activities; iv) interviews with key stakeholders and practitioners across government, industry and community around the challenges and opportunities they see around verge gardening; and consultation with LGAs and key stakeholders regarding the role of street verges in urban greening and biodiversity; v) exploring geospatial and field-based methods for assessing geographic patterns in street verge patterns; and vi) assessing the above-ground biodiversity and habitat values associated with exemplar street verges. 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 subproject is 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. The project  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 was conducted at two sites, Upper Stony Creek in Sunshine North and Shiels 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. Seasonal site observations were also undertaken at Upper Stony Creek. 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 semi-structured 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. A similar method was used to collect baseline data at Shiels Reserve. Sixteen interviews were conducted with local residents, following the same question format used at Upper Stony Creek.

The interviews and survey formed Stage 1 (pre-greening) to provide baseline data prior to full implementation of both projects. Further stages (post-greening) were planned for Upper Stony Creek but have been suspended to significant asbestos contamination at the site. Post-greening interviews are planned at Shiels Reserve that may continue into 2020 if a sufficient number cannot be completed before the end of 2019.

The biodiversity component at both sites 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 may be pursued in the future, dependent on co-funding.

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 (complete)

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). 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. This subproject 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.