Category Archives: urban green spaces

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.

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

Haptic pathways: co-designing inclusive, civil and sensorial moments in the city

by Freya Thomas

A few members of ICON Science recently collaborated with Dr Zoe Myers from the Australian Urban Design Research Centre in the School of Design at the University of Western Australia by entering a design challenge set by The City of Melbourne.

Our design was titled:

Haptic pathways: co-designing inclusive, civil and sensorial moments in the city

Our winning design sought to create a design for new and improved opportunities for immersive nature experiences that focus on the use of native vegetation to provide a sensory connection to nature in cities. Our design specifically focused on producing diverse sensory experiences, including previously under-emphasised and under-explored facets of sensory connection, such as touch and smell.

Our Haptic Pathway imagined urban greening along an inner-city residential street in Melbourne that was:

  • Inclusive – space and pathways to empower all residents, although particularly those who struggle to move through standard urban spaces and have reduced capacity to engage through sight and sound, to feel comfortable moving through a public space through everyday routines and through all seasons.
  • Civic – a design on a ‘regular’ urban street to invite people of all abilities, perceptions and ages to engage with biodiversity through incidental experiences.
  • Sensorial – a space with diverse and layered multi-sensory natural elements. A design that actively works with senses of touch and smell instead of just sight.
  • Ecological – we incorporated indigenous and native plants to provide sensorial experience but also biodiversity benefits by encouraging ecological interactions with birds and insects, highlighting the local ecology of the area.

Design elements we incorporated into Haptic Pathways include:

  • Colour blocking in central road verges specifically aimed at being striking to visually impaired people. The ecological value of this intervention is through mass plantings of floral resources for pollinators. Plants such as Wahlengergia species could be used which provide resources for native bees, butterflies and hoverflies.
  • Small aromatic, colour and sound blocks along footpath verges were designed particularly to smell and touch on rainy days. Aromatic plant species chosen, like Prostanthera species, also provide habitat for bird species.
  • Accessible sensory spaces designed to be used by wheelchairs, walking frames and prams, where people would be surrounded by colourful, textual and aromatic plants such as Chocolate lillies and fluffy Ptilotus species flowers.
  • Braille graffiti walls highlighting amazing local biodiversity where the ecological information about species is written in braille at an accessible height.

We included a comprehensive plant list of indigenous and Australian species using categories such as colour, trees and shrubs for rainy days, other aromatic species, small shrubs and ground cover textual plants to touch, plant for aural experiences, plants for temporally changing plantings.

Screen Shot 2020-04-29 at 3.04.07 pm

Image: Zoe Myers

It was an excellent collaborative and creative experience and we hope our design will inspire creative, accessible and ecologically minded plantings in urban areas.

Trees are hot news this year

Danish Street Trees

Danish Street Trees. Image: Thami Croeser

First it was the hopeful-but-questionable ‘One Trillion Trees’ initiative, announced at the World Economic Forum in Davos, with supporters as diverse as Jane Goodall and Donald Trump. At the same time, large areas of Australia were on fire – in total, estimates are that we lost 20% of our forest cover in the climate-change-driven ‘Black Summer’ fires that only recently subsided.

Recent collaborative research from our lab brings the focus back onto our urban trees. While a few billion hectares of new forest may slightly slow climate change at a macro level, we also need immediate solutions in our cities. In the places that most of us live and work, trees have an important role to play in helping us adapt to the warming (and flooding) that’s already locked in.

The thing is, we’re losing quite a lot of trees to construction, and even well-resourced teams are working hard to keep ahead of losses. In a new paper, Thami Croeser (ICON Science) led a team which found that The City of Melbourne has lost over 10,000 street trees in the decade of 2008-2017; 2000 of these were within 10m of a major development.

Thami_image001

The good news is most of these were small trees, possibly reflecting the city’s tough controls on tree removal.  The original research was published in Sustainable Cities and Society; we also had media pickup from The Conversation and Domain, where we talk a bit about how improvements in tree planting, tree protection and building greening can all play a role in keeping our cities green as they grow.

Thami Croeser

 

Transforming urban gardeners into land stewards

by Laura Mumaw

Gardenedited

The American conservationist Aldo Leopold wrote about the importance of practicing a ‘land ethic’, adopting personal responsibility for the health of the land – the soils, waters, plants and animals of a place – for the good of the community. Private land stewardship, caring for native flora and fauna on one’s property, has long been promoted in rural settings as a valuable contribution to conservation. By contrast in cities, conservation activities and research have focused on public land. Indeed, it has been suggested that urban landowners are unlikely to demonstrate the levels of land stewardship found rurally for lack of opportunity or the stronger place meanings and sense of place found in the country.

I interviewed 16 members of a municipal wildlife gardening program (Knox Gardens for Wildlife) in Melbourne Australia to understand how participation affected their reported gardening purpose and practice, and attachments to place and nature. Using inductive analysis and a definition of land stewardship derived from Aldo Leopold that includes purposes as well as activities, I developed a model for the development of urban land stewardship (below). It includes an initiation phase that introduces participants to stewardship and their potential to contribute, followed by a development phase where connections to place deepen; stewardship knowledge, competences and activities strengthen; and commitment to stewardship increases.

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A model for the development of urban private land stewardship

Results show that urban wildlife gardening programs can foster residential land stewardship through learning by doing. Visible community involvement and endorsement of one’s contribution are key, and connections to nature, place and community occur as part of the process.

You can read the article here or feel free to email me at laura.mumaw@rmit.edu.au for a copy.

Citation:  Mumaw L. (Online, 26 May 2017) Transforming urban gardeners into land stewards. Journal of Environmental Psychology. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvp.2017.05.003