Creating Urban Habitat – Every Space Counts
Feeling disheartened by the latest State of the Environment report? Every five years, the Australian government releases a comprehensive assessment of the state of our environment. The report lets us know how healthy — or sick — our animals, forests, rivers, oceans, climate, communities, and cities really are. Unfortunately, the just released 2021 report is not good. While there are many concerns, one of the main issues is the decline in our ecosystems’ biodiversity.
- Australia has lost more mammal species than any other continent and this trend continues. The number of new species listed or listed in a higher category of threat has grown by 8% since 2016 and will increase substantially in coming years because of the 2019–20 bushfires.
- Nationally, land clearing remains high. Extensive areas were cleared in Queensland and New South Wales over the last five years. Clearing native vegetation is a major cause of habitat loss and fragmentation and has been implicated in the national listing of most Australia’s threatened species.
- Australia now has more foreign plant species than native.
The list goes on.
Rather than feel disheartened though, let’s take this news as a call to action. Protecting and restoring our biodiversity is something every person can contribute to. Your backyard, balcony or selection of pot plants may seem inconsequential, but combined with everyone else’s, they create an urban habitat we can harness to help improve our region’s biodiversity. Picture an aerial view of your neighbourhood and you begin to see how all our yards and balconies combine to create one large habitat. What you do in your space has a very real impact on the biodiversity of our beautiful region.
So, what can you do? To increase the biodiversity in your space, here are some ideas:
Plant mostly locally native plants, with a variety in layers.
Native plants are great for native birds, bees, and pollination, and you’ll be able to relax come summertime instead of running around with a hose.
Depending on your space consider native trees to mid-layer flowering shrubs (including Grevillea sp.). clumping grasses, herbs, forbs, and groundcovers.
The layers of established vegetation will provide nectar and shelter for birds such as honeyeaters, as well as habitat for insects, skinks, and lizards. Mulching with a chunky wood mulch and leaf litter will provides additional habitat opportunities. Our wonderful nursery staff can help you with the right choices for your space.
Retain or install fallen logs, sticks, leaf litter, and rocks.
These provide habitat for native bees, insects, lizards, and small marsupials, as well as a refuge from cats and dogs. For example, large, old logs with borer holes make for excellent habitat piece for native bees, as well as providing fantastic habitats for lizards and skinks. A pile of rocks or a fancy gabion wall will also be a great space to encourage lizards and insects. Alternatively place some terracotta pipes around the garden.
Provide predator-free water sources for birds and other wildlife.
Install multiple water bowls for birds to access and position them high out of the reach of predators. Install one for smaller birds and one for larger, locating them separately to prevent issues between smaller and larger birds. Put some water out in a plant pot saucer with stones and sticks in it so butterflies, bees and lizards can drink safely. Water should be clean and fresh, and adjacent to shelter to allow birds to slip in and out unseen.
Provide nesting sites and opportunities/hollows for birds, possums, and bats.
Unless you are lucky to have old trees in your garden, it is unlikely they have developed hollows required by birds, possums, and bats. Consider installing a nesting box or two. Gympie Landcare has a good range of affordable nesting boxes for birds, possums, and bats.
Limit the use of chemicals around the garden.
Insects form a critical foundation to our environment’s health and numbers of insect populations are falling drastically. By limiting our use of pesticides and other chemicals, we help to rebuild those populations.
Be a responsible pet owner. Always keep cats inside and your dog contained at night.
Yes, it’s true. Even your beloved Tiddles is a killer and cats are such great hunters they can catch throughout the day as well as at night. Recent research shows that domestic cats are killing an estimated 230 million native Australian birds, reptiles, and mammals every year.
Many of our native species are active at night, including koalas, gliders, and possums. So, make sure they can travel safely by not only keeping Tiddles in 24/7, but contain Fido at night as well.
There are of course many other things we can do. For more inspiration, just google “backyard biodiversity” and pick the things you can do with your space, whether that’s a pot on a balcony or five acres of garden.