Post by Anna Frances Probert @AFProbert
Urbanisation has come at a cost to greenspaces and biodiversity. Worldwide, pressures for development to sustain our growing human population has led to the loss of vast areas of natural habitats and agricultural land. The associated loss of habitats that sustain populations of native species is considered a driving force in global biodiversity declines.
Greenspace is a general term used to characterise vegetated areas of land, whether that be a natural ecosystem such as forest, or a park and recreation area. The benefits of greenspace are broad-reaching; greenspaces can function to increase the quality of living and well-being of residents and visitors to the area. Growing evidence supports the notion that greenspace is an important component of healthy urban living, and greenspace is now a priority area for urban planners. Furthermore, greenspaces provide habitat for biodiversity, providing pockets of refuge within the urban matrix, and allowing the movement of species across the landscape. The protection of greenspace is therefore an important priority to maintain and promote biodiversity in urban areas.
At a smaller scale, urban gardens can act as a type of greenspace, particularly when interconnected with other gardens. Urban residents can therefore play an important role in the maintenance of native biodiversity, by using their gardens and other outdoor spaces in ways that support populations of native birds and invertebrates. Promoting biodiversity in smaller pockets can build up to become part of larger habitat and movement networks that support populations throughout the landscape.
So what can you do to help in your backyard? Well, many councils are now beginning to provide excellent online resources for community members learn about how to support local wildlife. Whether it is building a wētā hotel in your backyard or porch, planting kaihua (a native jasmine, which I have climbing inside my central Auckland apartment) and other native plants, or keeping your cat indoors and installing predator traps, there are many ways we can participate in enhancing our local environment, for both the benefit of people and biodiversity.
Anna Probert is a PhD student in the Centre for Biodiversity & Biosecurity, School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland. She is using ants as a model to assess the risk posed by exotic invertebrates to native ecosystems. She is supervised by Margaret Stanley, Jacqueline Beggs, and Darren Ward.