Creating a natural habitat in your backyard to protect biodiversity…

by Bronte Hogarth

This post is to spread awareness about Biodiversity Month held in September each year, aiming to promote the importance of protecting, conserving and improving biodiversity both within Australia and across the world!

What is biodiversity and why is it important?

Biodiversity has been described as the ‘web of life’. It encompasses every living thing that exists on our planet and the environment in which they live. From the smallest one-cell microbe to the enormous majesty of the blue whale. From the depths of the Pacific Ocean to peaks of our tallest mountains, biodiversity is something we are all a part of.

DID YOU KNOW? Australia is home to between 600,000 and 700,000 species, many of which are found nowhere else in the world.

What can we do to protect biodiversity?

There are a number of easy ways individuals and communities can help protect biodiversity in their local area. Creating a natural habitat in your backyard is one. Establishing a backyard for Wildlife means that you will encourage a host of native animals – birds, butterflies, lizards, frogs, insects – to your garden. Imagine them flocking to your yard! If their three main needs — food, water, and shelter — are available, then no matter how urban the setting, you can make this happen.

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Here are some tips:
  1. Planting local native species is a key factor in creating a wildlife-friendly garden. Local species require little maintenance and are naturally adapted to the soils, rainfall and climate of your area. They will recreate the relationships present with local wildlife.
  2. There are a number of landscaping elements such as rocks, logs, mulch, ponds and birdbaths – that can increase the range of wildlife that will use your habitat garden (remember that the availability of food, water and shelter are critical to all animals).
  3. Planning your garden to look more natural will attract more wildlife. Avoid planting in neat rows, mix different species together and, on occasions, clump some plants of the same species together.

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Great ideas:
  • Put in a pond to create a soothing garden oasis that offers something for everyone: refreshing drinks; a seed buffet for birds; sweet nectar for bees and butterflies; and hiding places for fish, frogs, and other water-loving wildlife.
  • Bring the birds by adding a spot where birds can drink and bathe. Birds prefer shallow basins (a maximum of 2 inches deep) that have a rough surface for good gripping.
  • Attract butterflies by selecting bright-colored flowers that produce nectar throughout the season, including alyssum, butterfly bush, cornflower, cosmos, coneflower, globe amaranth, heliotrope, larkspur, nicotiana, pentas, salvia, sunflower, and zinnia.
  • Plant flowers for bees because as insect pollinators we have to thank them for around 25 percent of everything we eat and drink, as well as more than 80 percent of the flowers we enjoy. Native plants offer some of the best nectar needed by pollinators, including bees.
  • Hear the hummingbirds by choosing flowers that produce nectar, a quick energy source. A hummer uses its long beak like a straw to sip the sweet substance from tubular-, bell-, and funnel-shape blooms, such as hummingbird mint, columbine, coral bells, bee balm, scarlet sage, trumpet vine, penstemon, hosta, cardinal flower, and honeysuckle.
  • Fruit for all – Fruit-eating birds such as robins, brown thrashers, and cedar waxwings flock to landscapes that feature fruit-bearing trees like American mountain ash, serviceberry, red cedar or crabapple. Berries too will bring many birds. Excellent native shrubs include beautyberry, American cranberrybush, elderberry, blueberry, chokeberry, winterberry, and coralberry.

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What to watch out for
  • Weeds that compete with native plants for water, light and nutrients.
  • Be wary of invasive non-natives, such as purple loosestrife, Japanese knotweed, crown vetch, and multiflora rose. Some adapt so well that they rampantly spread and bully native species into submission.

See information on native Australian plant species here.

Information Sources:

Australia Government – Department of sustainability, environment, water, population, communities

Better Homes and Garden

Australian National Herbarium

Don’t forget to head over to the 1MW website for information on taking action against dangerous climate change! We are daughters, mothers, sisters and grandmothers getting on with practical climate action to live better for us and the planet. Join the movement at www.1millionwomen.com.au