ICON at #VicBioCon21

By Katherine Berthon and Marco Gutiérrez

Last month ICON Science was a proud sponsor of the 2021 Victorian Biodiversity Conference (VicBioCon). ICON researchers also helped organise and presented at the conference. It was the first time the conference was held entirely online, and, despite some website updates during a tea break, the whole train ran smoothly!

VicBioCon is a local conference that aims to connect industry, government, and practitioners to research, and showcase local efforts to conserve biodiversity in Victoria. This year’s line-up included plenary talks from academics and professionals working with human-nature connection and threatened species conservation. It also included two outstanding panels; one on the efficacy of Australia’s biodiversity laws, and another on the possibilities for nature in the city. In the latter panel, our very own Sarah Bekessy shared her passion for creating everyday nature in cities, a topic that is especially important given continued covid lockdowns.

Plenary highlights included Euan Richie talking about what gives him hope in conservation, in a time of climate and political challenges.

Minda Murray shared about her story and the struggle of Indigenous Peoples to have their knowledge and cultural existence recognised. She ended by encouraging for collaboration and relationship building across Indigenous organisations and non-Indigenous allies.

Chris McCormack gave us two tales of development and encouraged us to build empathy for human-nature relationships through storytelling.

Lindy Lumsden delivered a passionate talk about her work with Australian bats and their conservation.

An equally important part of VicBioCon is the student and early career researchers talks which give postdocs, PhDs, and master’s students alike the opportunity to network and share their research. This year, ICON researchers participated in sessions on urban ecology, science communication, and environmental policy.

On Friday morning, in the Urban Ecology session, Katherine presented her research on using metabarcoding to determine pollinator preferences in Melbourne parks.

On Friday afternoon, in the Science Communication session, Matthew shared his expert elicitation work on cost-effectiveness of cat containment and wildlife gardening programs on conserving small mammals; and Emily mapped out the ethics behind strategic conservation messaging. Both have papers in prep, so stay tuned!

Alongside in the Environmental Policy session, Marco gave his critical analysis of the Melbourne Strategic Assessment, and Lily van Eeden (our latest ICON recruit) talked about research strategies, and collaborations necessary to encourage Victorians to value nature.

We look forward to the next edition of VicBioCon in 2022!

Our favourite conservation journal articles of 2020

As part of the final work week of the year, some of us from ICON wanted to share our fav journal papers of the year. A synopsis of each paper is provided below, and as you would expect from an interdisciplinary group, they cover a diverse range of topics.

Have a safe and healthy end of the year and we look forward to connecting in 2021.

Sarah Bekessy  

Sheldrake, M. 2020. Entangled Life. Penguin Books

My favourite science read was a book – Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake (How fungi make our worlds, change our minds and shape our futures). Read the New York Times review of the book here: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/27/books/review-entangled-life-fungi-merlin-sheldrake.html

Katie Berthon

Mills, J.G., Bissett, A., Gellie, N.J., Lowe, A.J., Selway, C.A., Thomas, T., Weinstein, P., Weyrich, L.S. and Breed, M.F., 2020. Revegetation of urban green space rewilds soil microbiotas with implications for human health and urban design. Restoration Ecology.

In a time of global health crisis, the knowledge that biodiverse urban environments can help increase our health and immunity is one of the best good news stories this year. While the links between biodiverse environments and gut health are old news, this study shows that it is possible to rewild our cities enough to restore biodiverse microbiota and will give us the necessary exposure we need to develop healthy and well-functioning immune systems. The authors compare the microbiota of different greenspaces in Playford, South Australia and find that restored sites with more diverse plant communities were able to get close to remnant or pre-city condition of microbiota. The nuances with soil are complicated, but my key take away is – rewilding can restore communities!

Ascelin Gordon

Waddock, S., 2020. Reframing and Transforming Economics around Life. Sustainability, 12(18), p.7553.

As many of us know, economic considerations are vital when trying to work on biodiversity conservation. More and more people are pointing out the fundamental problems with our current neoliberal economic systems, with their primary focus of on continual growth and failure to decouple themselves from increasing environmental impacts. This paper offers a new “framework for economics that affirms life”, and through this presents some radical and fundamental changes we need to make a society. These are the types of changes that would treat the fundamental causes of biodiversity loss, rather than just working to alleviate the symptoms.

Emily Gregg

MacFarlane, D. and Rocha, R., 2020. Guidelines for communicating about bats to prevent persecution in the time of COVID-19. Biological Conservation, 248: 108650.

I think we all find it fairly impossible to think back over 2020 without thinking about COVID-19, so for me the paper that stood out this year was definitely Douglas MacFarlane and Ricardo Rocha’s perspective piece ‘Guidelines for communicating about bats to prevent persecution in the time of COVID-19’. As well as being timely and straight to the point in terms of communicating some conservation messaging tips, it also furthered the conversation on how we need to consider the impact of our own messaging on reenforcing unhelpful narratives in the media and our own communities.

Cristina Hernández Santín

Apfelbeck, B., Snep, R.P., Hauck, T.E., Ferguson, J., Holy, M., Jakoby, C., MacIvor, J.S., Schär, L., Taylor, M. and Weisser, W.W., 2020. Designing wildlife-inclusive cities that support human-animal co-existence. Landscape and Urban Planning, 200: 103817

This paper provides a framework to integrate the needs of wildlife in city planning. It helped me envision a city that is actively acting from a biodiversity conservation perspective. What I love about this paper is that it is fauna centric and with the explicit goal of protecting species displaced by urbanization, not those adapted to urban environments. Similar to other design/planning frameworks with an environmental focus, the authors call for transdisciplinary collaboration in identifying areas in the city and setting biodiversity targets. Additionally, they recommend that projects should consider the target species’ life cycles and budget for the post-occupancy phase with monitoring and environmental management considerations in place. Finally, it asks for a participatory approach to work with the community and actively resolve any disservices or perceived threats.

Holly Kirk

Birch, J., Rishbeth, C. and Payne, S.R., 2020. Nature doesn’t judge you–how urban nature supports young people’s mental health and wellbeing in a diverse UK city. Health & Place, 62: 102296.

I read quite a few urban nature & human wellbeing papers this year, but Birch et al’s really stuck in my mind as it focussed on the how young people articulated their relationships with urban nature.  I enjoyed reading the young people’s descriptions experiencing urban nature in their own words and the surprising array things that created a connection with nature. The paper also underlined for me the importance of maintaining & enhancing natural spaces in cities – many of the young people described how seeing the deterioration of childhood parks made them feel worse. There is a strong need to provide high-quality everyday nature experiences, which should be prioritised in areas of higher urban deprivation. Access to urban nature cannot be seen as a luxury.

Alex Kusmanoff

Krpan, D. and Houtsma, N., 2020. To veg or not to veg? The impact of framing on vegetarian food choice. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 67: 101391.

 This paper experimentally tests three alternative ways of framing vegetarian meal options on menus, and finds that pro-environment, social, and neutral framing are all more effective at eliciting vegetarian meal choices from non-vegetarians than ‘vegetarian’ framing. Overall, this study reinforces an important point how you say something can be as important as what you say. However, it should be noted that these studies were undertaken online via respondent surveys, and did not measure the actual behaviour of diners; it would be great to see if this effect is replicated in the field restaurant. In the meantime, this paper offers insights into how framing may be applied to promote vegetarian food choices.

Matthew Selinske

Ecker, U.K., Butler, L.H., Cook, J., Hurlstone, M.J., Kurz, T. and Lewandowsky, S., 2020. Using the COVID-19 economic crisis to frame climate change as a secondary issue reduces mitigation support. Journal of Environmental Psychology70: 101464.

The ongoing COVID-19 crisis has generated a lot of thought and consideration of what the post crisis world will look like. Will governments double down on fossil fuel use in a bid to jump start economies or will we be compelled to take a greener path forward? In their paper Ecker et al. tested different framing effects of COVID and climate change messaging on climate change concern and mitigation support. They tested two framings 1) our response to the COVID crisis is ‘trial run’ for future climate action and 2) that climate change action should take a ‘back seat’ to more immediate economic concerns post crises. The trial run framing did not as expected increase concern or mitigation support for climate change and the back seat reduced both concern and mitigation support. I liked the article as it was a good reminder that we should be considerate of how we talk about moving conservation forward during and post crisis. As my colleague Alex Kusmanoff is fond of saying how we say stuff matters.

Hugh Stanford

Cooke, B., 2020. The politics of urban greening: an introduction. Australian Geographer, 51(2), pp.137-153.

The editorial by Cooke 2020 provides an overview of the role politics plays in shaping urban greening outcomes. The paper encourages a more critical lens be applied when undertaking urban greening research and challenges often dominant technocratic and apolitical perspective of urban green space planning. Given the growing body of research on the potential social and ecological benefits provided by urban green spaces, Cooke 2020 capitalises on the opportunity to take stock of how the academic discourse has evolved so far and proposes a more robust and socially minded direction in which the field of urban greening research can proceed.  Given all that’s transpired in 2020 and the way in which we’ve all relied on our public green spaces, it’s hard to think of a more appropriate time to start conversation about what we as a society wish to get out of urban greening and how best to go about achieving it; in this way, Cooke 2020 hits the nail on the head.

Celebrating NAIDOC Week 2020

Photo Credit: Holly Kirk

2020 has been a year for reflection and delays, and in due style last week we celebrated a delayed NAIDOC Week. This is a time for delving deep, recognising and reflecting on the culture and peoples who have shaped this land through centuries of change.

Always was, always will be…

That was the theme for this years’ NAIDOC week, which pays homage to this land and the peoples that shaped it before it had the name ‘Australia’. It refutes the doctrine of ‘terra nullius’ that led to mass-scale dispossession and often violent conflicts between Indigenous people and colonial settlers.

The idea that you are standing, sitting, sleeping or reading this post while on stolen land is a disconcerting one, especially for those who are the descendants of colonial settlers or new migrants since. How do we sit in this discomfort and what action can we take to reconcile this past?

A good start is to acknowledge the past and understand the impact of past injustices. Though criticised for its lack of action, the Rudd apology in 2008 was a turning point in the discourse at the national level – at least now we had stopped denying the truth.

We are the stories we tell ourselves.

The quote has been repeated so many times in various ways, it’s hard to know who is first to have said it. The stories we tell ourselves become the reality we live. We too can help change our own internal discourse by learning more about the history of this country, its peoples and their culture, as well as our place in it.

Whose land are you on?

Mount Donna Buang, Yarra Ranges NP, Victoria.
Photo: Holly Kirk

One of the biggest misconceptions about Aboriginal Australia is its expected uniformity. Prior to European settlement, there were 300-500 Indigenous nations, each with their own languages and customs. Sadly, many of these languages are becoming or are already extinct – something you might not think possible given our current ability to document everything online.

These language groups and their geographical bounds are often what we refer to when we think of Indigenous Country. Connection to Country and Caring for Country are phrases you might have heard, but not stopped to think about what they meant, or been able to consider the reality that there are actually many Countries.

Imagine the stories you tell about the places you have been. I was born here, I grew up there, this is where I met my future partner. In Australia we use a mix of place names, original or derived indigenous names like Wagga Wagga and Mallacoota, as well as those that came long after the first peoples already had named them.

We at ICONScience live and work across Melbourne and its outskirts, Perth, and regional Victoria. Said differently, we live and work on lands of the Dja Dja Wurung, Woiwurung, and Boonwurrung language groups of the Kulin Nations, Wajuk country in WA, and Jaitmatang country in regional Victoria.

Can you imagine how your story would change if you mapped your life according to the Indigenous Country you stood on? There are many tools out there to help you, like this map from AIATSIS that covers all of Australia, or the Welcome to Country App (on Apple phones only) that gives you location specific information.

Paying the rent

It is both politically unpalatable and personally unsettling to talk about Australia as being unceded land. What do we do with that knowledge? How do we reconcile it with our current lifestyle?

Melbourne city skyline. Photo: Holly Kirk

It is difficult for the average Australian, who right now might be jobless or struggling to pay rent, to imagine providing restitution for the misgivings of their ancestors, or those they live with. It is hard to feel how privileged we are.

And yet, acknowledging the past does not remove its ongoing effects. Indigenous people are half as likely to own their own home, more likely to be unemployed or incarcerated, and have a lower life expectancy (for more information see Australia’s Welfare 2017 report or the Closing the Gap campaign). Never again, we said in 2008, but in 2020 more children than ever are being taken from their families under controversial child protection policies.

A movement that acknowledges the political complexity of restitution is the notion of “Paying the Rent“. First born out of NAIHO (now NACCHO) and a team of dedicated activists in Victoria, the movement urges for governments to pay a percentage of the Country’s income to Aboriginal peoples while allowing for self-determination and governance on how that money is spent for repatriation.

But you don’t have to wait for the government to act. You can pay the rent yourselves through this Victorian website.

Other steps

Sunrise at Rowles Lagoon, WA. Photo: Holly Kirk

This is a good point to acknowledge that money cannot fix everything. There are other things that are needed in the process towards reconciliation with First Nations people.

High on the list are calls to allow Indigenous voices to be heard in parliament (e.g. the Statement from the Heart) and other governance processes; an official treaty that gives Indigenous Australians the power for self-determination; and integration of the true history and understanding of Indigenous cultures into our education system.

If respect for indigenous culture was embedded into the fabric of the Australian way of life, we wouldn’t need this moment to reflect during NAIDOC week, we would see it reflected in our everyday.

Resources

If you want to explore beyond simply acknowledging Country, there are a range of resources designed to teach you and help you connect to Indigenous culture, history, music and language – check out this list here.

There are also many great books to read including Dark Emu by Bruce Pasco, who uses settler colonial accounts to dispute the idea that Aboriginal peoples were simply hunter-gatherer societies.

Claire Land’s book Decolonising Solidarity is also a great book club read with lots of associated resources to help you to have those difficult conversations about how to act as a non-Indigenous ally.

For those interested in conservation and engaging with Indigenous Peoples and Indigenous Knowledge, have a look at CSIRO’s Our Knowledge Our Way guidelines, and the Three Category Approach Workbook by the Clean Air and Urban Landscapes Hub

We don’t need to import rare parrots – there are so many better ways to get close to nature

This is a Scarlet Macaw – one of the many magnificent species of parrot endemic to south and central America. An Australian Government study is considering whether it is appropriate to allow imports of these birds, following pressure from the local pet trade.  

Image credit: Jay Warburton- https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Scarlet_Macaw_(17275987).jpeg

Importing parrots from overseas has been banned since 1995. This is because importing birds, even when they’re spectacular, is a spectacularly terrible idea. I spoke to the ecologists in our group and they gave me some clear reasons why.  

First – and this is the one the government is looking at seriously – moving birds internationally might mean we see movement of diseases too.

The risks include avian infuenza, parasites and mosquito-borne diseases. These diseases aren’t just a risk to humans, but also our wildlife, and there have been disasters in past. The fungal plant disease, Myrtle Rust (Austropuccinia psidii) passed all of our border controls in 2010, and spread through the country, killing substantial areas of native vegetation. Several native plant species went from common to critically endangered as a result. For the 12 species of Australian parrots that are already endangered, any outbreak could lead to extinction. The government notes quarantine as a key risk management strategy – which we have recently learned the limitations of quite intimately, being a Melbourne-based lab in the age of COVID-19. 

On top of disease risk, there’s the damage that the pet trade can do by promoting poaching and smuggling. This hasn’t been addressed directly by the Australian government’s enquiry, but for a number of South American parrot species, trapping for the pet trade has compounded the enormous pressures these birds face from deforestation, with many species already at the brink of disappearing altogether. Spix’s Macaw (star of the 2011 film Rio) is now extinct in the wild, and over 40 species of parrot in the region are endangered or critically endangered. Opening new markets that could encourage poaching is the last thing these birds need.  

On top of that, we’ve got a long history of disastrous examples of imported species getting out and going feral (you’ve probably seen a common or Indian mynah today, and then there’s the infamous cane toad).  There is also the ethical question of whether it’s fair to take wild, sociable tropical birds with large home ranges and keep them alone in cages.  

Stack up all these considerations and a pet macaw isn’t just risky – it’s unconscionable.  

The good news is that we’re an island with masses of amazing endemic species, including some truly spectacular parrots and cockatoos. Really, with locals like this, why would you go abroad? 

While you’d need to take a bit of a drive to see the magnificent Pink Cockatoo in its mostly arid inland habitat, you don’t need to go far to have wonderful experiences with nature. Even for city dwellers, there are a lot of positive, rewarding ways you can get into contact with our bird life, sometimes without even leaving the house. This week, members of our lab engaged in Birdlife Australia’s ‘backyard bird count’ – spotting species including black cockatoos, musk lorikeets and galahs. If you want to learn more about the wildlife right on your doorstep, a great way is to get involved with one of the accessible citizen science projects running across Australia as we speak. Spring is a great time for this, as other national recording events are taking place, including Frog ID week (6th – 15th November) and the national pollinator count (8th-15th November). Many of these citizen science projects have free identification apps attached, helping you recognise common species and making it easy to record your findings. The most famous of these is iNaturalist, but there are others you might not know about: BirdCountSpidentifyFrogID, and Butterflies Australia. For each Australian state you can also find excellent free field guide apps to all groups of common fauna. 

If you have a keen green thumb, you can also start cultivating your own little patch of wilderness that the birds will love. Many native species rely on private gardens for foraging or nesting resources, and you can do your bit by increasing the number of native plants, building a bird box or providing water (especially during the next hot, dry summer). Check if your local council has a wildlife gardening program, which often have free resources and sometimes offer free plants to help get you started.  

If you have a bit of extra time, or a bit of extra space, there are a range of active volunteer groups that you can join – whether it be providing care for injured wildlife through Wildlife Victoria/WIRES NSW, or maintaining habitat through the ‘friends of’ group for your local park (e.g. Friends of Westgate ParkRoyal Park or the RBG in Melbourne, or similar groups in Perth and Sydney). Not only will you learn loads about the local wildlife in your area, but you can actively participate in programs to encourage them to be healthy and thriving – while making like-minded friends along the way! 

Once you know a little more about who lives in your backyard or local park, the best way to connect with your local wildlife community is to spend some time outside. Take 5 minutes to look closely at a flowering plant, or watch a patch of water and you might be surprised at what you notice! Tiny native hoverflies visiting for a meal, or a family of wood ducks washing. Taking a little more time to watch the world around you will open a whole new window onto your own personal wildlife documentary. Check out some of the special and unexpected connections people have made with urban nature here.  

Getting to know your locals can also prevent unfriendly encounters – magpies, for example, are less likely to swoop you during breeding season if you’ve got to know them beforehand, and sometimes will even introduce you to their babies

Of course, having a pet in the house is lovely too. For many of us that have faced loneliness through lockdown, companion animals are something we value more than ever. The thing is, there are plenty of loving animals that really need homes – we really don’t need to plunder distant jungles (at risk of plague, extinctions, feral outbreaks and general animal cruelty) to find a bit of company. Adopt a pet at your local shelter instead; it’s much less likely to learn to swear at you.  

ICON tells Victoria’s Parliament to ‘walk the walk’ on urban greening

The ICON Science group has submitted our response to the Parliament of Victoria’s ‘Inquiry into Environmental Infrastructure for Growing Populations’. Our city has grown rapidly – has our access to nature kept up? 

It’s commendable that our leaders have turned their minds to this topic, as COVID-19 has reminded us of the enormous importance of natural capital such as local parks to people’s well-being. While green open spaces kept many of us healthy and happy through lockdown, Melbourne’s ‘environmental infrastructure’ could be better. RMIT research demonstrates that the city lost 2000ha of tree cover between 2014-2018, and many residents do not have a substantial green space in walking distance of home, as demonstrated by research by our colleagues in the Australian Urban Observatory. Many of the parts of the city with the least access to environmental infrastructure are also the city’s most socially disadvantaged, as demonstrated in the grey areas in the map below, prepared by researchers at ICON lab.  

It’s clear that we have some catching up to do, but how we do that is important. In our submission to the Inquiry into Environment Infrastructure, we wanted to ensure that tree canopy was considered ‘environmental infrastructure’ – there’s much more to urban nature than just grass and footy ovals. We have also highlighted that while efforts to increase green infrastructure should be ramped up, ensuring that they are of value to biodiversity and are easily accessible is equally important. These assets not only deliver health and social benefits, but also generate jobs and promote economic activities. In fact, they build safety nets and strengthen resilience of people, biodiversity, and ecosystems to shocks.

Many of the pieces are in place to improve the city’s environmental infrastructure. Melbourne has developed high-quality plans for urban nature, such as The Living Melbourne Strategy and the draft Metropolitan Open Space Strategy – we have the right words on paper. In the wake of COVID, now is the time “walk the talk”. Quick translation of such plans into action through expedited funding, resourcing, and removal of institutional barriers is of paramount importance.

You can read our submission here

Society for Conservation Biology Melbourne Twitter Conference

ICON scientists were out in force last Thursday and Friday at the first ever Twitter conference of the SCB Greater Melbourne Chapter. A huge congratulations to the organising committee and moderators (including ICON members Matthew and Holly) that braved the technology issues, found stray threads, and kept the tweets flowing. For many of us, it was the first time presenting in this format, but the quality of presentations was outstanding!

Our fearless leader, Sarah, defeated technology glitches to kick off the talks with an inspirational opening plenary that urged readers to plan for, and create everyday nature in cities.

In the following session on Fitting Nature into Melbourne, Katherine presented her systematic review results for how plant origin influences biodiversity in urban green spaces (keep a look out for the paper, coming soon!)

On Thursday afternoon, the Strategies for Designing Urban Spaces for Nature session saw a triple header of ICON Scientists. First up, Marco presented his work investigating how biodiversity and ecosystem services are treated in urban planning and policy documents (the answer is not well – another paper to look out for!).

Holly then presented her connectivity modelling work for the City of Melbourne, including prioritisation of road segments for greening action, to reduce the impact of these roads as barriers for wildlife. Rounding out the session, Thami presented on the process of setting biodiversity targets in the recently finished Biodiversity Plan for Fisherman’s Bend.

On Friday, Georgia presented her work on cat control in the Threats to Nature in Melbourne session, and in the Connection to Nature session, Matthew shared his new survey results on connection to Nature in the City of Melbourne.

With COVID-19 lockdowns now extended in Melbourne, and second waves potentially hitting other cities, Twitter Conferences may be the way of the future. They are very engaging and it is almost easier to gain post-talk feedback and ask questions – plus the talks are up there in perpetuity so you’ll never miss a thing!

It’s not too late, check out the hash tag #SCBMelb20 or follow the links above to view the talks and post your questions now!

Invertebrate use of rooftops in Melbourne

Green roofs are a peculiar kind of designed habitat. In already highly urbanised areas, where there is large pressure on efficient land use, green roof retrofits are a key strategy to bring back nature without losing building capital.

While green roofs are known to have many economic and social benefits, such as stormwater retention and thermal buffering, their usefulness as wildlife habitat remains an open question. Multiple studies record insects, birds, spiders and other animals existing on green roofs, but there is little known as to how (and if) they are subsisting, or indeed what they are doing up there.

Native Halictid bee visiting a native Scaveola flower on the Parliament green roof. Photo Credit: Jess Baumann.

This is the focus of a new study by ICON Science researchers Georgia Garrard and Katherine Berthon, and research assistant Jess Baumann, who are setting out to document how animals (particularly birds and insects) are using green roofs in the City of Melbourne by monitoring two new green roof retrofit developments. This project is funded under the City of Melbourne ‘Green Our Rooftop’ initiative, and uses a large new green roof retrofit that is set to be constructed on 1 Treasury Place in Fitzroy, as well as the innovative Melbourne Skyfarm that will replace the top level of the Siddeley Street Carpark in Docklands.

Monitoring a green roof retrofit before and after its construction is an ideal way to answer some of the tricky questions about the secret life of rooftop animals. For example, we don’t yet fully understand the value of a single roof, the primary pathways by which animals come to live or forage on a roof, and whether there is any movement of animals between rooftops.

It is often not acknowledged that some invertebrates (like spiders and flies) and some birds (like the Peregrine Falcons nesting on 367 Collins St) are capable of using bare roof spaces. Knowing this baseline of buzzing activity helps us know what animals have been attracted after a green roof is installed. This allows us to quantify the added value of a new green roof in the landscape.

It is likely, however, that the construction of a green roof is so disturbing and prolonged for a site that it might wipe the slate clean. This is where monitoring the site immediately after construction is important – it tells us the first-comers, and potentially highlights stowaways that have been transported onto the roof with the plants or in the soil. Perhaps surprisingly, snails have been found in large quantities on some green roofs, many stories high – likely as a result of hitch-hiking on plant material during roof installation.

We will also monitor nearby ground sites that might act as sources of animals that appear on the new green roofs. This may also show whether anything that is transported onto the roof might spill over into adjacent environments. Often soils and plants used in green roof construction come from far away, and can create assemblages of species that are atypical of the regional area. Finally, monitoring adjacent roof sites helps answer whether there is any spill over effects that might generate synergistic or additive effects of multiple green roofs popping up in the landscape.

During our study we will also be recording specific plant-insect interactions so we can not only know what insects are up on the roof, but what they are using it for. Pre-covid lockdown we had just finished collecting the baseline data to show what’s happening before the roofs have been constructed. Not surprisingly there wasn’t much happening on the bare roofs except for a few spiders and flies, whereas ground sites were still bustling with summer insect life.

At the end of our study we hope to know a little more about what makes a green roof good for biodiversity. Importantly, we want to avoid making roofs that act as “ecological traps” by enticing animals to live there without adequately fulfilling their life-cycle needs. Already we know that some ground nesting birds, whose nestlings are left to fend for themselves after hatching, find low reproductive success on green roofs. Solitary bees also struggle to produce viable offspring on roofs above 5 stories high. So, how do we create green roofs that provide the right resources, especially for breeding? To stay tuned follow the ICON blog or follow me on Twitter @CityKat75

References:

Baumann, N. (2006) Ground-nesting birds on green roofs in Switzerland: Preliminary observations. Urban Habitats 4 (1), 37-50.

MacIvor, J.S. (2015) Building height matters: nesting activity of bees and wasps on vegetated roofs. Israel Journal of Ecology & Evolution (ahead-of-print), 1-9.

Madre, F. et al. (2013) A comparison of 3 types of green roof as habitats for arthropods. Ecological Engineering 57, 109-117.

Williams, N.S. et al. (2014) Do green roofs help urban biodiversity conservation? Journal of Applied Ecology 51 (6), 1643-1649.

Shafique, M. et al. (2018) Green roof benefits, opportunities and challenges – A review. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 90, 757-773.

National Reconciliation Week 2020

By Natasha Ward

This year we celebrate National Reconciliation Week in a very different way than we could have ever predicted. From our homes, we mourn the loss of lives, families, culture and history. But we also work hard to look into the future. Whilst this may be like a random week chosen during the year, it has a very important historical meaning.

We always begin this week on the 27th of May. This is the date of the 1967 referendum, after which Indigenous Australians were counted in the Australian census. This week ends on the 3rd of June, the anniversary of the Mabo Decision, where is was acknowledged that this land was not Terra Nullius, and should never been called such, which lead to the Native Title Act. These dates are some of the more significant milestones in the reconciliation journey of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

“In This Together”, the theme of this year’s National Reconciliation Week, speaks loudly for all Australians during this tough time. We may be physically distant, but for many we have made a conscious effort to reach out, regardless of our race or cultures, to show that we will support each other no matter how rough times get ahead. I hope that this kinship continues beyond these next months, and this strong community continues to grow and build, so that we may work towards a stronger unified people, who recognise the importance of reconciliation for all Australians.

By striving for reconciliation and acknowledgement of our Traditional Owners nobody loses their history, but we will gain a rich culture and history that goes back 60,000+ years. We have far to go, but we can do it, as long as we are all #InThisTogether.

Announcement: New ARC-funded Linkage Grant

We are excited to announce that ICON Science members Sarah Bekessy, Georgia Garrard, and Matthew Selinske, along with Emily McLeod (Zoos Victoria), Fiona Fidler (University of Melbourne), Yoshi Kashima (University of Melbourne), and Amanda Rodewald (Cornell University) have been awarded an Australian Research Council Linkage Grant.

The grant is co-funded by partners Zoos Victoria and Genovese Coffee and supported by KeepCup and the Smithsonian Institute’s Bird Friendly Coffee Initiative.

The grant “Effective biodiversity behaviour change across supply chains” aims to examine the structural and behavioural barriers to biodiversity-friendly production and consumption, how to overcome them, and increase positive biodiversity impact via behavioural spillovers. We will use coffee production and consumption as a case study to test behavioural interventions and develop a framework for generalising to other behaviours impacting biodiversity. The research will benefit Zoos Victoria’s planned “Wildlife-friendly Coffee Campaign” and Genovese Coffee’s sustainability efforts.

Keep updated on the progress of the grant and forthcoming job postings for a postdoc and PhD student by following the ICON Science blog and Twitter account @ICON_Science.

Australia’s Urban Biodiversity: How Is Adaptive Governance Influencing Land-Use Policy?

By Hugh Stanford

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Image: John Englart / CC BY-SA 2.0

Due to a growing global interconnectedness, the world is a highly uncertain place where the daily lives of individuals are increasingly susceptible to the happenings half a world away. To find examples of this, one only has to look at Australia’s current run through 2020, where ‘unprecedented’ climate change fuelled bushfires have given way to the ‘unprecedented’ realities of a COVID world. In these times, where the notion of ‘normality’ starts to appear as a novelty, the way in which we govern ourselves and the places we live needs to be adaptive in the face of uncertainty. The existing theory on resilience and sustainability advocate for an adaptive governance approach, where our governance systems are designed not to resist inevitable shocks, but to utilise them to shift towards a better future.

In a new book chapter titled “Australia’s Urban Biodiversity: How Is Adaptive Governance Influencing Land-Use Policy?”, ICON Science PhD candidate Hugh Stanford investigates how well Australian biodiversity land-use planning policy has gone about incorporating adaptive thinking into key policy documents. The chapter uses an analytical framework to assess land-use planning policies in Melbourne and Sydney, determining how well they adopt adaptive governance elements. The chapter concludes that, while some policy measures provide for adaptability in the face of uncertainty, more needs to be done to better protect Australia’s unique and valuable biodiversity from threats of an unpredictable future.

Reference

Stanford H., Bush J. (2020) Australia’s Urban Biodiversity: How Is Adaptive Governance Influencing Land-Use Policy?. In: Roggema R., Roggema A. (eds) Smart and Sustainable Cities and Buildings. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-37635-2_14