Project 3: Urban Greening for Liveability and Biodiversity
Green cities are healthier and more pleasant places to live, for people and other species. We know that rapid environmental change (e.g. urban heat and climate change) and social change (e.g. densification, cultural diversification) are occurring. We also know that the strong intersection of social and ecological issues in urban environments, and the consequent emergence of novel challenges and opportunities, demands thoughtful approaches to planning and management. This project developed knowledge and guidelines to help govern, manage, monitor and evaluate Australia's urban green and blue spaces in a landscape of change.
Two major lessons from research conducted through CAUL’s Urban Greening for Liveability and Biodiversity Project have been:
- There are challenges in managing trade-offs between the multiple benefits (e.g. health and wellbeing, biodiversity, ecosystem services) of urban greening; and
- Governance and management of urban greening is happening in a rapidly changing social and ecological environment (e.g. climate change, densification), and therefore planning future management activities will need to integrate Indigenous knowledges, historical experiences and modelling of future climate and urban conditions.
Policy makers are also seeking to incorporate water management and urban greening (i.e. through ‘green-blue’ spaces). This project provided research perspectives to help green-blue space planners and managers create and maintain multi-functional green-blue spaces that continue to provide multiple benefits in future environments, for different people.
Cristina Ramalho, UWA
Judy Bush, UoM (deputy)
3.1 - Quantifying urban green space and tree cover ✅
3.2 - Review of the knowledge base ✅
3.3 - Understanding the psycho-social dimensions of urban greening ✅
3.4 - Assessing the vulnerability of Australian cities' green infrastructure to climate change ✅
3.5 - Developing an audit tool to quantify the multiple benefits of urban greening ✅
3.8 - Green space governance in a changing green urban landscape ✅
3.9 - Informing management of changing urban green spaces ✅
3.10 - Monitoring and Evaluation of multifunctional green space at different scales ✅
3.11 - Biodiversity and human-nature considerations in urban forest management ✅
3.13 - Indigenous Noongar perspectives in city planning and urban nature ✅
Note: Subprojects 3.5 and 3.6 were rolled into Project 6 from Research Plan 4. Subproject 3.7 was rolled into subprojects 3.3 and 3.5 as of Research Plan 3.
Marco Amati, Judy Bush, Dawn Dickinson, Catherine Elliott, Claire Farrell, Tim Fletcher, Dominique Hes, Joe Hurley, Dave Kendal, Kate Lee, Steve Livesley, Cecily Maller, Sareh Moosavi, Kirsten Parris, Cristina E. Ramalho, John Raynor, Nicholas Williams, Kathryn Williams
3.1 - Quantifying urban green space and tree cover
Subproject leader: Marco Amati, RMIT
In collaboration with industry partners, this project has investigated a standardised urban greenery typology and user-friendly mapping protocol targeted at local and state governments across Australia. The team has collaborated closely with subproject 4.2 in the use of urban heat island data and high-resolution urban vegetation data developed under the Urban Monitor program. These data are being used by state governments in NSW, WA and Victoria to help plan their future urban forests.
- Report: Where should all the trees go? Investigating the impact of tree canopy cover on socio-economic status and wellbeing in LGAs
- Paper: Urbanisation-induced land cover temperature dynamics for sustainable future urban heat island mitigation
3.2 - Review of the knowledge base
Subproject leader: David Kendal, UTas (formerly UoM)
A well-established body of research demonstrates that visual and physical access to vegetated environments is associated with a range of social and psychological benefits including improved aesthetic enjoyment, improved mood, attention and self-reported well-being. This project reviewed national and international published and grey literature to determine evidence-based relationships between urban greening and a range of ecosystem service, human mental and physical health and psycho-social metrics. A factsheet on the many benefits of urban greening has been used to engage local and state governments and start to build a business case (economic, social and environmental) to support urban greening when urban vegetation and open space are under increasing pressure from development.
- Info sheet: The benefits of urban greening
- Research brief: Benefits of urban greening
- Report: Benefits of urban green space in the Australian context
3.3 - Understanding the psycho-social dimensions of urban greening
Subproject leader: Kathryn Williams, UoM
Developing understandings of how effectively new kinds of urban green space support psycho-social benefits is critical for planning healthy, liveable cities. A key priority for this project was to better understand how urban green spaces, and the different vegetation types within them (e.g. trees, understorey, groundcovers) provide these psycho-social benefits, how different qualities, characteristics or types of urban green spaces influence psycho-social benefits and how different social groups experience these benefits.
Through data analysis of social media, CAUL researchers found that tweets from people in parks expressed more positive emotions such as joy and anticipation (and less negative emotions such as fear or anger) compared to tweets from people in built-up areas. This contributes to a growing body of evidence regarding the physical and mental health benefits of urban parks, and provides important insights for urban planners and developers. Researchers also worked closely with the City of Melbourne and Hort Innovation regarding the psychological benefits of green roofs and urban green spaces. They reviewed existing evidence for the psychological and wellbeing benefits of green roofs, and developed a framework that could serve as a preliminary guide to support the design of green roofs specifically for psychological benefits.
- Paper: The grass is greener on the other side: Understanding the effects of green spaces on Twitter user sentiments and emotion
- Paper: Appraising the psychological benefits of green roofs for city residents and workers
3.4 - Assessing the vulnerability of Australian cities' green infrastructure to climate change
Subproject leader: David Kendal, UTas (formerly UoM)
The vulnerability to climate change of the green infrastructure in Australian cities was assessed on a variety of scales (from the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria to the City of Melbourne, and multiple cities around Australia). The resulting reports and papers are being used by many local governments around Australia to plan their future urban forest. This work also led to international collaborations on the value of nature-based solutions to urban heat, including via a workshop at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) Cities and Climate Science Conference in Edmonton in 2018.
- Report: The City of Melbourne’s Future Urban Forest
- Report: Risks to Australia’s urban forest from climate change and urban heat
- Paper: Nature-based solutions for urban climate change adaptation: Linking science, policy, and practice communities for evidence-based decision making.
3.5 - Developing an audit tool to quantify the multiple benefits of urban greening
Subproject leader: Nick Williams, UoM
CAUL researchers previously developed a Public Open Space Desktop Auditing Tool (POSDAT), to assess the quality of parks as it relates to human physical health outcomes. This project extended POSDAT so that it also assesses the ecosystem services and psycho-social benefits of all urban green infrastructure, not just parks. This work was captured in subproject 3.3.
3.8 - Green space governance in a changing green urban landscape
Subproject leader: Judy Bush, UoM
Urban green-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, green-blue 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. This subproject investigated new approaches to governance and policies to support the creation and retention of healthy, multifunctional green-blue spaces. Results of this research have informed the development of Melbourne’s Metropolitan Open Space Strategy (led by Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning) and the metropolitan Melbourne Urban Forest Strategy Implementation Plan (now led by City West Water).
- Factsheet series: Green-blue space governance
- Paper: The role of local government greening policies in the transition towards nature-based cities
- Paper: Building urban resilience with nature-based solutions: How can urban planning contribute?
3.9 - Informing management of changing urban green spaces
Subproject leaders: Judy Bush, UoM and Cristina Ramalho, UWA
Expected changes to urban green spaces driven by climate, demographic change and urban densification have enormous implications for urban land managers and our cities. There is currently little guidance to inform management of green space (e.g. plant selection, site amelioration) in a changing environment to maintain and enhance the multifunctional benefits it provides. This project furthered knowledge of the likely changes to species, resources and conditions facing urban green space managers. Four-horizon scanning workshops uncovered a range of threats and opportunities that will assist in developing priorities for current and future research policy.
- Report: An urban forest horizon scan in Canberra, Australia
- Report: Urban forest horizon scanning in Lund, Sweden
- Report: An urban forest horizon scan in Melbourne, Australia
3.10 - Monitoring and evaluation of multifunctional green space at different scales
Subproject leaders: Judy Bush, UoM
Existing methods of measuring green space have largely focussed on simple measures of land cover (e.g. tree canopy) or land use (e.g. access to parks). Increased recognition of the multifunctional benefits of urban green space demands different kinds of monitoring and evaluation measures that can act as indicators of multi-benefits at different scales – from sites, to suburbs to cities. Through collaborations with local and state governments, this research identified a range of indicators to support monitoring and evaluating the delivery of the multifunctional benefits of urban green space at different scales – from local sites to whole cities. This project produced a practical monitoring and evaluation framework for urban green space.
- Info sheet: Urban greening monitoring and evaluation
3.11 – Biodiversity and human-nature considerations in urban forest management
Subproject leader: Cristina Ramalho, UWA
Perth is located in a global biodiversity hotspot and has iconic and threatened black cockatoos that rely for survival on its urban forest, including natural woodlands as well as non-native trees planted along streetscapes. Yet, this project found that biodiversity and its related human wellbeing benefits (e.g. sense of place and connection with nature) are rarely active considerations in management decisions affecting urban forest in the metropolitan region. This project unpacked the diverse factors that influence the decision-making process and articulated the breadth of socio-political factors that often end up shaping urban forest composition. The study can support practitioners to achieve a less reactionary and more evidence-informed approach to urban forest management.
- Report: Biodiversity and human wellbeing considerations in managing the urban forest of a global biodiversity hotspot
Sub-project 3.13 – Indigenous Noongar perspectives in city planning and urban nature (collaboration between all CAUL Hub projects)
Subproject leader: Cristina Ramalho, UWA
The Swan and Canning Rivers, their tributaries and the many wetlands that cover the Swan Coastal Plain are a fundamental biophysical component of Perth’s environment, and have immense cultural value. Noongar Knowledge can guide the planning and management of this environment. The project was informed by senior Noongar leaders in late 2018, and it officially started in June 2020, with the employment of two proud and much respected Noongar women. In the first semester of 2021, four cultural mapping workshops engaged the wider Noongar community in a discussion about cultural values associated to the waterways in the Canning River landscape. The valuable knowledge generated from this project will provide a voice to the Noongar community and help to guide stakeholders tasked with land use and water planning in Perth. Several stakeholder organisations are partners in this project, including Water Corporation; WA Department of Water and Environmental Regulation; WA Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions; WA Department of Housing and Communities; WA Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage; City of Canning and Perth NRM.
Banner image: Aerial view of Sydney. Credit: Verity Cridland via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)