Across the globe, humans have built cities in the most biodiverse rich landscapes.  Cities occupy the prime real estate: the best soils located near water resources, often where the most prolific vegetation was present.  These also happen to be the most biodiverse parts of the Earth. 

Our quality of life in Australia depends on how we manage our environment, for our own health and wellbeing. The proportion of Australians that live in cities and regional centres is approaching 90%.  Capital city population growth rate (1.9% in 2017-18 alone) in Western Australia is nearly double that of rest of the country (1.0%), making this area more challenging than anywhere else across the continent. 

Murdoch ecologists and social scientists, under the Centre for Climate Impacted Ecosystems at the Harry Butler Institute, work together to understand the importance of biodiversity and ecosystem services in our cities.  Research within this theme aims to identify urban design that nurtures a biodiverse and liveable city.

Theme Highlights and Active Projects

NatureLink Perth

This hub is hosted by Murdoch University.  NatureLink Perth connects and coordinates a diverse array of stakeholders.  We champion nature-linked urban design and biodiversity conservation to increase the extent, quality and connectivity of green space in Perth, thereby enhancing sustainable development and quality of life for both people and native plants and animals.

Understanding the biology of urban wildlife

Despite the altered landscapes around us, many animal species thrive in urban landscapes.  Birds exploit garden plants, while water and food also attract many mammals.  Murdoch researchers have been investigating how animals persist around cities, how we can control those that have become invasive, and support the ones that teeter on the brink of local extinction.  Find out more about the City of Mandurah ‘Backyard Bandicoots’ project.

Mitigating impacts of weeds and fire in urban bushland

Weed control is one of the most challenging tasks faced in urban landscapes.  Invasive plant species can rapidly spread from cultivated gardens into native bushland which poses a challenge for maintaining the aesthetic value of urban reserves as well as proper ecosystem functioning.  Dry and volatile plants can also markedly increase fire risk, a significant concern around high density housing.  We are working together with land managers to identify the best solutions for urban bushland.

Maintaining quality urban water reserves

Water is our most precious resource.  Clearing for urban development has dramatically altered surface water flow and recharge of our precious water reserves, and we have drained and built over wetlands. 

Urban micro-meteorology and climate

Clearing for urban development has also altered the urban environment via the Urban Heat Island effect. Sustainable urban planning needs to take micro-meteorology and climate into consideration, especially in the face of climate change where temperatures will increase over future decades.  Our research is helping to identify how we can optimise urban planning.

Invasive animal control

Urban landscapes are particularly difficult for the control of vertebrate pests – we inadvertently supplement pest animal populations with food and shelter resources, there are substantial social restrictions on control activities, and the control tools that we can use are limited.  Murdoch researchers have been working with community and local councils to develop appropriate methods of controlling pest animal species in urban landscapes.

Connecting people with urban nature

Urban nature provides important benefits for human health.  Urbanparks and other greenspace provide valuable spaces for people to experience nature, improving health and social outcomes.  Murdoch researchers have been working with local communities and government to understand how people experience and think about nature in urban areas.

Managing tourism and recreation

Understanding the human use of protected natural areas and the associated impacts is a continuing focus of research at Murdoch.  Strong collaborations across tourism, environmental, biological and social sciences provides a holistic synthesis of the key elements necessary for successful management.

Primary and high school education

Children today will design and actualise the cities that they want to live in.  We are engaging with children to develop these environmental stewards for a bright future.

For more information on this research theme, please contact Prof Michael Calver:

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