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Town planners have traditionally drawn lines on maps to demarcate areas zoned for residential, industrial, recreational and conservation purposes. In principle, people's homes should be confined to one zone, parkland to another and native plants and animals to yet another. In practice this system breaks down, particularly when addressing the problems of conserving biodiversity. Experience has shown that a small representative sample of a plant community in a reserved area is not sufficient to maintain viable populations of plants and animals into the future. Vegetation and wildlife communities have a reduced species diversity when they are isolated from other remnants by extensive water, urban or agricultural land barriers (Diamond 1975). To reduce the isolation of natural plant and animal communities in reserves the preservation of biodiversity in the garden can assist. Already many landcare and related schemes are attempting to restore some of the loss of the natural values in agricultural areas. This can be extended to your own garden with surprising success, but there are costs. The costs and benefits are the subject of this paper.

Costs range from being considered rather odd for not wanting to mow your native grasses or for creating such a fire hazard with all that ‘fuel’ or mulch. Other costs include living without dogs and cats, herbicides and insecticides (except the natural ones such as insects, geckoes and bandicoots), and the withdrawal symptoms following your sale of the lawnmower. (Can you really exist without the hours and hours spent mowing, breathing in the fumes and consuming scarce fossil fuels?).

On the positive side the sense of achievement that you feel as you watch native animals move back into your yard now that it is wildlife friendly compensates for all the costs. You don't need to keep pets, whether introduced or native. Much of the enjoyment gained from owning pets can be obtained from sharing ‘your space’ with myriad native creatures surviving in your yard because you created the right conditions for them. You don't have to feed them, restrain them or clean up after them. You can go on holidays and they will look after themselves. It might just make the difference between local extinction and survival for some species.

The development of our garden within the village of Coutts Crossing is a living example of how the above concept can be realised.

Barrett, G. 2000. Birds on Farms - Ecological Management for Agricultural Sustainability. Supplement to Wingspan 10: I-XI.
Diamond, J. M. 1975. The island dilemma: lessons of modern biogeographic studies for the design of nature reserves. Biol. Conserv. 7: 129-46.
Dow, D. D. and Whitmore, M. J. 1990. Noisy Miners: variations on the theme of communality. Pp 559-592 in Cooperative breeding in birds ed. by P. B. Stacey & W. D. Koenig. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Recher, H. F. 1985. Synthesis: A Model of Forest and Woodland Bird Communities. Pp 129-135 in Birds in Eucalypt Forests and Woodlands: Ecology, Conservation, Management ed. by A. Keast, H. F. Recher, H. Ford and D. Saunders. Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union. Surry Beatty and Sons, Chipping Norton, NSW.
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