Urban Greening

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 will develop 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 the first years of research conducted through CAUL’s Urban Greening for Liveability and Biodiversity Project have been:

  1. There are challenges in managing trade-offs between the multiple benefits (e.g. health and wellbeing, biodiversity, ecosystem services) of 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.

Policy makers are also seeking to incorporate water management and urban greening (i.e. through ‘green-blue’ spaces). Further research is needed 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. In 2020, the project will finalise research undertakings in three sub-projects by synthesising our findings on management of urban green-blue spaces such as urban forests, parks, wetlands, and creeks.


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.  




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


3.1 - Quantifying urban green space and tree cover (complete)

Subproject leader: Marco Amati, RMIT

In collaboration with industry partners, this project investigated a standardised urban greenery typology and user friendly mapping protocol. This will enable local and state governments across Australia to map the urban vegetation in their jurisdiction and its functional values, ultimately leading to a nationwide assessment of the extent and quality of urban greenery.

3.2 - Review of the knowledge base (complete)

Subproject leader: David Kendal, 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.

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.

3.4 - Assessing the vulnerability of Australian cities' green infrastructure to climate change (complete)

Subproject leader: Stephen Livesley, UoM

The vulnerability of Australian cities’ green infrastructure networks to climate change was investigated by assessing the risk of extended drought and rising temperatures to urban green space and tree populations and by exploring ways to use and manage water in urban landscapes to mitigate climate change impacts.

3.5 - Developing an audit tool to quantify the multiple benefits of urban greening (complete)

Subproject leader: Nick Williams, UoM

CAUL researchers have 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 service and psycho-social benefits of all urban green infrastructure, not just parks.

3.8 - Green space governance in a changing green urban landscape

Subproject leader: Judy Bush, UoM

Urban green-blue spaces (incorporating terrestrial and wetland landscapes) 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-blue spaces across policy domains, but also presents challenges for largely monofunctional governance, management and budgetary systems. Green-blue 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-blue 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-blue space decision-making processes. While this work will predominantly focus on public land, policy mechanisms for greening on private land will also be considered.

3.9 - Informing management of changing urban green spaces (complete)

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 furthered knowledge of the likely changes to species, resources and conditions facing urban green space managers.

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

3.10 - Monitoring and evaluation of multifunctional green space at different scales (complete)

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. This research project investigated a green space monitoring and evaluation framework and guideline.

3.11 – Biodiversity and human-nature considerations in urban forest management

Subproject leader: Cristina Ramalho, UWA

Worldwide, the urban forest is increasingly recognized 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 recognized 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, subproject 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 synthesize 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)

Subproject leader: Cristina Ramalho, UWA

This sub-project (which commenced in 2019) draws from an ongoing conversation that was recently facilitated by CAUL 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 finalized. This sub-project aims to collate place-based Noongar perspectives on city planning and urban Nature in Perth in a format that is recognized 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 two Indigenous research assistants as well as supervisory time from an Indigenous elder. The scope of these positions is currently being finalised in collaboration with relevant stakeholders. This project is a collaboration between P3, P4, P5, P6 and P7. The delivery of this project will depend on the identification of suitable people for these positions.

Banner image: Aerial view of Sydney. Credit: Verity Cridland via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)