Create an urban refuge for local biodiversity and enjoy the visual elements, the sounds and serenity of nature in your own backyard.
Nature is something special. It's not just about trees and animals, but also the way they interact with one another and the uniqueness of these relationships. From birds, bats and koalas to insects and worms, they all have an important role to play.
By fostering biodiversity in your backyard you are supporting a diverse variety of plants, animals and micro-organisms that can live around your home. By complementing your indigenous garden with a bird bath or wildlife box for nesting birds, bats and possums, you are supporting the ecosystems in which these plants and animals live.
With the trend toward larger homes and a growing urban sprawl, backyards are decreasing in size and habitats supporting biodiversity are disappearing. By taking simple actions to counter this trend and actively supporting and learning about your local ecosystems, you are helping to preserve our unique flora and fauna and the habitats they live in.
Aligning your backyard to the climate and natural conditions of your region will create a refuge suitable for a range of wildlife such as butterflies, lizards and birds.
How to do it now!
Encouraging wildlife and supporting biodiversity in your backyard is aided by addressing the three basic needs animals have. These are food, water and vegetative structure (shade, protection and breeding).
Plant an indigenous garden
By selecting indigenous plants that provide food (flowers and fruit) for local birds, bats and possums (or food for the insects they eat) you will be providing the key incentive for them to inhabit your garden. For more on this topic, see our Grow an Indigenous Garden action.
Mulch, set up rotting logs and feed the bugs
Insects, worms and bugs thrive in decomposing natural matter and are an ideal source of food for those animals, bats and birds further up the food chain in your backyard ecosystem. Frogs and lizards also use the logs to live and nest in. Further more by adding decaying debris such as logs and mulch you improve the soil condition, which promotes plant growth (further enhancing biodiversity).
Install a bird bath or pond
A local source of fresh water is a great way to attract local biodiversity, especially given the prolonged dry spells many parts of our country have been experiencing. However the vegetative structure around the source of water is important, otherwise you may attract larger birds such as starling and pigeons (rather than honey eaters).
Plant your garden to provide 4 types of structure (or layers)
In natural ecosystems the diverse range of wildlife is supported through several plant layers (collectively referred to as the structure). These layers include the upper layer (trees), middle layer (shrubs), lower layer (grasses and lilies), and ground layer (leaf litter and groundcovers). If you plant one layer you may only attract one or two species, however by planting 2, 3, or even 4 (depending on how big your garden is) then you will attract more biodiversity. In small yards it may not be possible to plant trees, however this won’t affect your garden too much.
Make and install a nesting box for wildlife
Twenty per cent of Australian wildlife (including birds) require hollows in which to nest and breed. Clearing old trees from forests has resulted in a shortage of hollows for many of our native animals and birds. As a result many species of rosellas, lorikeets, parrots, kookaburras, owls as well as microbats and possums are finding it difficult to nest and breed. It can take up 150 years for tree hollows to naturally develop. How many trees do you see that are likely to be 150 years or over? For more information on specific nesting boxes and wildlife requirements see the FauNatures website.
Installing your nesting box
Nesting boxes are generally attached to trees, however they can also be placed on poles. Generally bats and birds prefer to be at least two metres off the ground.
Pick a position for the nesting box base based on the following criteria:
Near to where the birds feed or perch.
Where you can see the nesting box.
Where the box is shaded and away from the hot afternoon sun.
Pointing away from any prevailing bad weather.
“Nest Boxes for Wildlife – a practical Guide” by Alan and Stacey Franks is an essential guide to building homes for our native animal friends. Try searching Google to locate a bookshop near you.
You can also see the National Birdbath Study at the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland.
Why is this action important?
By maintaining the biodiversity of our local ecosystems we are ensuring their long-term conservation. Learning to support biodiversity is a step toward restoring lost habitats and encourages us to understand the complex and beautiful relationships of nature or admire the sounds of birds and colours of our local plants.
Biodiversity is “variety of life” and it provides us with the diverse range of healthy trees, shrubs and gardens that we love. The birds, bats, possums, and lizards keep the insects at bay and are the guardians and “canaries” of our urban ecosystems as they recover from years of degradation and poor land management practices.
Connection, responsibility and serenity are some of the vital qualities that mark the highpoints of our lives. Supporting the biodiversity in your backyard connects you with the nature that surrounds us and allows you to help take responsibility for its health. As you take a moment in your backyard watching a pair of birds nest in the box you made for them, you may feel part of something much bigger than your backyard.