Backyard Biodiversity in Boroondara

Residents of Boroondara are justifiably proud of their green leafy suburbs and wonderful parks and gardens. The name Boroondara signifies shady place in the local indigenous dialect. The municipality has hundreds of mature canopy trees that help to keep the streets cool on hot summer days.

Boroondara is a place known not only for its leafy streets and open spaces but also for its many sustainable and productive private gardens. This includes gardens rich in wildlife and local flora. Many Boroondara gardeners are creating magical garden environments full of beautiful butterflies, energetic honeyeaters, majestic eucalypts and indigenous wildflowers like bluebells and everlasting daisies. With a little planning and the right plant choice, you too can start. Your new wildlife haven can require less maintenance and water compared to an exotic garden. You can start small or large; plan a full garden makeover or work with your neighbours to link your wildlife projects.

The natural biodiversity of Boroondara – which once included expansive woodlands, grasslands and herb fields, and wetlands along rivers and streams – has been affected badly by urbanisation. Over the past 150 years, most of the country has been cleared, natural wetlands drained and waterways stressed by pollution and erratic inflows. Climate change now poses new and compounding threats with ongoing lower rainfall and a predicted increase in heatwaves and hot days.

Local biodiversity in crisis

• Plants and animals living in isolated pockets of land face a high risk of becoming locally extinct.
• Some common garden plants, like Agapanthus, are recognised weeds. The seeds invade reserves and bushland where they thrive, and smother delicate local flora.
• Garden chemicals (fertilisers, pesticides and insecticides) can harm native animals and waterways.
• Foxes and other feral animals prey on birds, reptiles and small mammals.

Often overlooked, but essential to survival of life on Earth, is the understanding that plants, animals and micro-organisms provide us with ‘ecosystem services’. These life-sustaining services include: producing oxygen for us to breathe, storing (or sequestering) carbon from the atmosphere, cleaning our water, breaking down waste, pollinating crops and flowers, and dispersing seeds. Every species plays a specific and integral role in a balanced natural ecosystem – so protecting every species is important.

Many centuries-old River Red Gums suffer from dieback apparently from dramatic infestations of small insects eating the leaves. These leaf miners would normally be controlled by insect-eating birds such as Spotted Pardalotes, but there are now so few of them around. These tiny birds have been chased away by aggressive honeyeaters. The imbalance between the insect eaters and the honeyeaters results from the loss of bird habitat and shrubby understorey in which the smaller birds can hide.

Every species plays a specific and integral role in a balanced natural ecosystem – so protecting every species is important.

By using indigenous plants in your garden you can create havens for insects, lizards, butterflies and birds, thus enhancing local biodiversity. Indigenous plants are not only native to Australia; they are plants that occur naturally in your local area. When your garden and neighbourhood is mostly native or indigenous it will attract a greater diversity of native animal species. Providing a range of habitats and protecting these plant and animal species in your garden makes an essential contribution to conserving and enhancing local biodiversity.

Get your copy of Backyard Biodiversity from Backyard-biodiversity-guide.pdf