Urban Greening

Project 3: Urban Greening for Liveability and Biodiversity

Urban green spaces contribute a myriad of ecosystem services such as ameliorating the urban heat island effect, reducing peaks in stormwater runoff, absorbing air pollution, providing habitat for biodiversity and reducing energy used for cooling and heating. Furthermore, exposure to nature and urban green spaces deliver a range of human well-being benefits including increased activity and reduced real and perceived stress which can contribute to improved mental and physical health outcomes.

Due to these benefits there is growing enthusiasm for urban greening in cities around the world and an associated interest from planning and landscape practitioners in understanding the best ways to incorporate and maintain vegetation in cities.

Two major learnings from the first two years of research conducted through CAUL's Urban Greening for Liveability and Biodiversity Project are:

  1. There are challenges in managing trade-offs between the multiple benefits (e.g. health and wellbeing, biodiversity, ecosystem services) from urban greening; and
  2. Governance and management of urban greening is happening in a rapidly changing social and ecological environment (e.g. climate change, densification), and therefore historic knowledge is likely to be less useful in guiding future activities.

Further research is needed to help green space planners and managers create and maintain multi-functional green space that continues to provide multiple benefits in future environments, for different people.

This project will provide more effective use of funding and resources targeted for urban greening projects, and ecological and social gains through new urban greening opportunities measured by the positive outcomes for liveability and biodiversity.

PROJECT LEADER

Cristina Ramalho, UWA
Judy Bush, UoM (deputy)

SUBPROJECTS

3.3 - Understanding the psycho-social dimensions 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

RESEARCH TEAM

Kate Lee
Claire Farrel
John Raynor
Nicholas Williams
Steve Livesley
Tim Fletcher
Kathryn Williams
Cecily Maller
Dominique Hes
Joe Hurley
Kirsten Parris
Marco Amati
Sareh Moosavi
Dave Kendall
Catherine Elliott

Subprojects

3.3 - Understanding the psycho-social dimensions of urban greening

Subproject leader: Kathryn Williams, UoM

Little is known about how effectively new kinds of urban green space support psycho-social benefits. Furthermore, different human communities in different urban locations (i.e., inner, middle and outer areas of a city) may prefer and benefit differentially from different forms of urban greening, yet there is little understanding of the nature of these relationships. Currently, decision makers must act in the absence of guidance on how different attributes, quality or types of urban greening impact on communities for whom they plan across different urban environments. A key priority for this project is 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.

In addition, very few studies have considered how specific characteristics of urban greening – particularly
plant types, plants traits and vegetation complexity influence these benefits. Green roofs have the potential for psycho-social benefits across a range of novel contexts. For example, green roofs could provide benefits for city employees during work, through glances outside the window or nearby lunchtime visits. They could help boost workplace outcomes such as positive work behaviours, concentration, and performance. Furthermore, green roofs also have the potential to influence great numbers of people living and working in dense cities.

We have obtained significant funding from Hort Innovation to study the psycho-social dimensions of green roofs using a new demonstration green roof to be built by the City of Melbourne in 2019. This research will be conducted over 2019 and 2020. A key priority for this project is to improve understanding of how green roofs may influence psycho-social and health outcomes for city employees and to understand how this relates to aesthetic preferences for green roof plant characteristics. Understanding benefits in this context, as well as links between plant/landscape characteristics and benefits, will build capacity in urban green space planning, design, management, and maintenance.

3.8 - Green space governance in a changing green urban landscape

Subproject leader: Judy Bush, UoM

Urban green space in public parks and streetscapes and private gardens provides multiple benefits for city dwellers. Recognition of this multi-functionality is bringing opportunities for inclusion of green space across policy domains, but also presents challenges for largely monofunctional governance, management and budgetary systems. Green spaces are governed by a complex set of institutions including Local Government Areas (LGAs), government agencies, Non-Government Organisations (NGOs), nursery growers, landscape architects, and community groups including local people and traditional owners. These challenges are potentially amplified by the impacts of climate change and urban densification. This project will develop guidelines, tools and frameworks for multifunctional governance and participatory approaches that link policy domains, facilitate green space management and evidence-based policy processes. A key knowledge gap identified by end users that will be addressed in this research is the need for mechanisms to improve public participation and inclusion in green space decision-making processes.

3.9 - Informing management of changing urban green spaces

Subproject leaders: Cristina Ramalho, UWA and Judy Bush, UoM

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 will further knowledge of the likely changes to species, resources and conditions facing urban green space managers, initially through a horizon scanning exercise involving end-users and researchers from CAUL and other institutions. This exercise will canvass a range of issues including changing climate, urban densification, demographic change, water and waterways issues, biodiversity and human health and wellbeing. This project will also extend the work done in RPv3 (on species climate change risks and function-attributes) by identifying the green space benefits at risk from increasing temperatures, and identify new species potentially suitable for future climates and harsh urban environments that could maintain or enhance these benefits. These outcomes will build capacity in urban green space management and inform future management of urban green spaces across Australia.

The fourth 'horizon scanning' workshop at Lund University, Sweden.

3.10 - Monitoring and Evaluation of multifunctional green space at different scales

Subproject leaders:  Cristina Ramalho, UWA and 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. A range of domains including cooling, biodiversity, human health and wellbeing, flood risk and water quality need to be addressed. Through a desktop exercise, researchers will synthesize existing knowledge in the academic literature, and in practice on green space indicators, and monitoring and evaluation of these indicators at different scales, from sites to suburbs to cities to the national level. A workshop bringing together researchers, end users and other stakeholders that will be used to identify requirements for an end-user relevant monitoring and evaluation framework. From this synthesis and workshop, a green space monitoring and evaluation framework and guideline will be developed. The outputs from this subproject will contribute to Australia understanding how it meets its target for Sustainable Development Goal 11 of providing universal access to green and public open spaces.

3.11 – Biodiversity and human-Nature considerations in urban forest management (Extension) (previously Species selection for the urban forest – biodiversity considerations)

Subproject leader: Cristina Ramalho, UWA

Worldwide, the urban forest is increasingly recognised as a tool to mitigate the impacts of the urban heat island (UHI) and climate change. In Australia, most capital cities and respective LGAs are in the process of implementing their urban forest plans. However, there is a recognised lack of a scientific driven framework that provides a solid foundation to interventions within and across different cities. While sub-project 3.9 focuses on species suitability for the urban forest from the perspective of their vulnerability to future climates, sub-project 3.11 explores biodiversity and human-Nature considerations that should be taken into account in urban forest management. In particular, this sub-project will focus on the Perth and Peel Metropolitan Regions, which are located on the southwest Australia global biodiversity hotspot. This region has a Mediterranean drying climate with increasing fire risk, some of the highest rates of insect and bird plant pollination in the world, ground-water dependent ecosystems, and two iconic endangered black cockatoos that use urban trees as important food resources. This research project will synthesise existing knowledge on urban forestry in areas of significant biodiversity conservation concern, and develop a framework to guide urban forest interventions in these areas to better consider biodiversity, while still considering fire risk, human health and wellbeing and ecosystem service provision.

Sub-project 3.13 – Indigenous Noongar perspectives in city planning and urban Nature (collaboration between all CAUL Hub projects)

This new sub-project draws from an ongoing conversation that was recently facilitated by CAUL Hub and the Northern Australia Environmental Resources Hub in Perth on the 25th July 2018, and that brought Indigenous Noongar and non-Indigenous people working in Perth-based cultural projects to discuss what could be done that was useful from a Noongar perspective in the space of city planning and urban Nature. A clear collaboration pathway emerged from this meeting, and since then a project has been drafted, and its scope and key ideas are being finalised. This sub-project aims to collate place-based Noongar perspectives on city planning and urban Nature in Perth in a format that is recognised among urban planners and environmental managers. The sub-project proposes to employ an Indigenous researcher that will work towards the collation of information, facilitate the organization of a workshop (involving Noongar people and strategic planners from State and Local Government), and be involved in the production of a report. This sub-project will seek to fund an Indigenous researcher on 0.8 FTE for 2 years and is currently seeking co-funding opportunities to cover half of the salary and operational costs. This project is a collaboration between P3, P4, P5, P6 and P7. The delivery of this project will depend on the success of getting most of the funding required within the next few months, and on the identification of a suitable person for the position.

Expected Outcomes

For practice:

  • Strengthen and facilitate green-blue space governance and contribute to adaptation to future landscape and urban change (3.8);
  • Increase the sustainability of future green-blue space plantings through the use of more suitable plant species (3.9);
  • Improved management of multifunctional green-blue space benefits (3.9, 3.11);
  • Increased public participation and inclusion in green-blue space governance (3.8);
  • Improved ability for land managers to justify investment in green space interventions, to plan green space interventions, and to monitor the multiple outcomes of these green space interventions (3.10);
  • Increased land manager awareness of biodiversity and human-Nature connection considerations that can guide urban forest management (3.11);
  • Increased understanding of Indigenous Noongar values and perspectives that should be considered in urban planning and urban greening in the Perth Area (3.13);

For capacity building in the sector:

  • Improved capacity of land managers to effectively govern and manage green-blue spaces in a changing environment (3.8, 3.9, 3.10, 3.11);
  • Improved collaboration between research and practice (all sub-projects);

For research:

  • Furthering global scientific knowledge on the governance and management of multifunctional green space in a changing environment and at different scales (3.8 & 3.9);
  • Improved understanding of the challenges facing urban green-blue spaces in a changing environment (3.9);
  • Synthesis of knowledge on public participation and inclusion in green space governance (3.10);
  • Better understanding of the importance of the urban forest for biodiversity conservation and human-Nature connection (3.11)
  • Synthesising Indigenous Noongar perspectives on urban planning and urban greening (3.13)

Banner image: View of Melbourne from Royal Park. Marc Carrabs