The Importance of Biodiversity
Biodiversity describes the variety of life forms found in any place or ecosystem. It includes humans, plants, animals, fungi, soil and micro-organisms. Biodiversity – diversity of plants and animals – is essential for the healthy functioning of any ecosystem. Biodiversity allows for the provision of countless services for humans including food, clean water, medicine and clean air. It is incredibly important that these ecosystem services are valued and preserved for future generations.
Human activities change the natural environment and in doing so put certain species of flora and fauna at risk. The ACT Government has it's own list of threatened ecological communities which can be found here.
There are a number of local Landcare groups, friends of nature reserves, and other organisations working hard to restore and conserve biodiversity in the ACT. Find a group here.
Steps for Encouraging Backyard Biodiversity
The best place to start is in your own backyard. Encouraging biodiversity in your backyard will increase both bird life and pollination in your garden while also providing urban corridors for our native wildlife. It's easy and fun!
- Create habitat for local species. Creating habitats that suit local native flora and fauna is a great way to increase biodiversity. This can be done by planting native plants, as well as creating habitats for local animals with logs and rocks. Native grasses and other native plants are much more likely to attract native birds, butterflies and insects.
- Plant native plants of different heights. Ensuring a variety of vegetation and habitat types by planting different varieties of local native plants will increase the variety of birds and native animals and insects in your backyard.
- Provide water for native animals. Water is essential for creating a comfortable habitat for native animals, especially in dry climates such as Canberra. Providing water off the ground is a great idea for birds, as they are often reluctant to drink at ground level due to fear of predators.
- Create a frog pond. Creating a pond surrounded by native grasses and water plants will attract frogs. Coarse wire mesh over the top of the pond will protect frogs from cats and other predators.
- Don’t use pesticides and herbicides. Pesticides and herbicides kill birds, reptiles and frogs if they eat insects sprayed by pesticides. If you must use them, try using ones made from natural ingredients, such as pyrethrum.
- Keep the cat in. Keeping your cat inside at night, and putting bells on their collars, are simple ways of protecting the environment for the local fauna. Native animals feed at night, making them easy prey for cats.
- Don’t dump garden waste. Dumping garden waste in the bush allows for the spread of unwanted weeds that can out-compete natives.
- Build a compost. Composting garden waste and kitchen scraps will help creating a thriving habitat in your backyard by increasing garden nutrients and soil biodiversity.
- Remove major environmental weeds from your yard. Invasive weeds are a major problem in Australia’s ecosystems. The best way to manage invasive weeds is early detection and eradication. More information on invasive species and tips to manage weeds in your backyard and property is available here.
Bees in the ACT
Bees play an essential role in sustaining biodiversity and pollinating plant species for our food and fibre. Approximately one third of our food is pollinated by bees and their role in the environment cannot be understated!
Bee species are declining globally due to increases in insecticide and herbicide use, the expansion of mono-culture crops and the increasing effects of climate change. While the rapidly declining bee population is a global challenge with massive implications for biodiversity and food security, there are ways that you can be involved in reviving local bee populations in your neighbourhood. Here's how:
- Support local beekeepers or join a beekeeping group
- Buy local honey. Check out the honey on sale at your local farmers market, or jump online to purchase honey made within Canberra at Canberra Urban Honey.
- ACT for Bees is an excellent resource for bee-friendly plant species, educational films and advice on products and chemicals to avoid in the garden.
- ANU Apiculture Society is a student led initiative that engages with education, research and bee advocacy, and sustains its own hives on campus.
- Learn more about the bee crisis, and add your name to the Greenpeace campaign to ban toxic pesticides from farming.
Get started as a bee-carer (or bee-keeper)
- Come to a Canberra Environment Centre workshop. We run workshops on backyard beekeeping several times a year. Other workshop topics include creating a bee-friendly backyard and building an insect hotel.
- Join the Beekeepers Association of the ACT for a beginner course. Don’t forget to register as a beekeeper at Access Canberra when you’re all set up.
- You don’t have to be an apiarist to protect bees in the ACT. Here are some steps from the David Suzuki Foundation to create a bee-friendly garden.
- Build an insect hotel. Insect hotels provide shelter for bees to hibernate in winter and nest during summer. Unlike bee hives, insect hotels attract native bees that do not commonly produce honey. Check out the new bee hotel at the Australian National Botanic Gardens for some inspiration!
Canberra is home to a wide range of frog species, some of which are unique to our region and others that are vulnerable and endangered. Frogs are sensitive to changes in the environment. They can detect atmospheric, water and climatic changes and thus play an especially important role as an indicator species and pest control agent.
The Gininderra Catchment Group runs an extensive Frogwatch program that offers some excellent opportunities to get involved with restoring Canberra’s frog populations. See here their guide to creating frog-friendly backyards and here for how you can get involved in the Frogwatch Census and Frogwatch for schools. Also be sure to keep an eye out for our creating a frog-friendly garden workshops.