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Backyards for Biodiversity

Updated: Jun 8, 2023

At the BIEPA members' meeting in April we had the inspirational Ken Cross from Backyards for Biodiversity SEQ as our guests speaker. Here's a summary from Ken with some ideas for things we can all do to help tackle the looming biodiversity crisis.

About the organisation

Backyards for Biodiversity SEQ is a new not-for-profit that exist to promote both the importance and potential of urban areas for biodiversity in south-east Queensland.

Across our urban areas we plan to improve and expand native biodiversity:

  • Our aim is to educate residents as to the beauty and environmental value of our plants and wildlife and to the ways that nature can enrich their lives.

  • We will actively support and encourage residents and businesses to implement practical strategies to encourage biodiversity, and especially to plant locally indigenous flora to support our local fauna.

  • We also hope to collaborate with local governments and businesses to increase their awareness of the importance of biodiversity within the lands that they manage and to implement management practices that protect and enhance biodiversity.

About the problem

The science tells us that climate change and biodiversity loss are potentially catastrophic challenges for all humanity. Biodiversity loss is occurring everywhere and is symptomatic of damage to ecosystems that we humans depend on for our survival.

Everyone therefore has a responsibility to be part of the solution, advocating for biodiversity protection and — where possible — restoration.

To be part of the solution, every resident who resides in SEQ must carefully examine the land that they own and manage it through a lens of biodiversity, seeking to restore its potential. The strategies to enhance one’s backyard are relatively straight forward but they do reflect a simple understanding of ecology.

Plant native plants

First, and most importantly, plant local native plants.

These are the plants that have evolved here to survive and thrive in local soils and climate. They are the source of biodiversity, and they are the basis of a local ecology. Local plants feed local insects. Local insects and local plants together form the basis of a pyramid that supports all other local wildlife. A variety of local native plants will feed a diversity of local creatures. The greater the number of individuals of a local plant species will allow greater numbers of local insects to survive.

This will contribute to keeping common animals common; surely a prerequisite to preventing local extinctions!

Create habitat layers

Plant a wide variety of local native plants.

Consider, especially a variety of plant forms: herbs, ground covers, local grasses, ferns, vines, epiphytes, shrubs and trees. Think layers! Think of fruiting plants and ones that produce seed! Think of flowering plants [and think of when they flower such that you can have nectar in your garden all year round] to attract pollinating insects! Think of butterfly food plants such that butterflies and their caterpillars will be seen again and again and again!

Avoid exotic species

Remove the enemies of local native plants! Remove or at least limit the lawn.

Lawn is an ecological desert. Replacing it with local native plants adds to the biodiversity! Exotic plants, viewed through a strict ecological lens, are taking the place of native plants that feed our native fauna and so reduce the potential population of every creature form bug to bird to bat!

Provide water

Create safe places for animals to drink and bathe.

Australia is the globe’s driest continent and even close to the coast sometimes rain deserts us [see what I did there?]. Providing ponds and puddles and bird baths is a great basic way to assist local life. Hide bird baths under native trees so that birds are not exposed to predators while splashing about.

Provide shelter

Provide species specific shelter!

Our nocturnal mammals and many of our birds need hollows for shelter and/or breeding. Tree clearing has removed too many hollows, so it is useful for us to create artificial ones. Fill your gardens with branches and logs, rocks and bark this furniture will be used by many species of skinks, frogs, and invertebrates.

Exclude predators

Avoid elements in your backyards that could kill or maim or scare our native creatures.

To this end, predatory pets cats and dogs must be controlled. While I am on this subject, we should also avoid feeding predatory birds such as magpies, butcherbirds, and kookaburras, as these species in large numbers decimate smaller bird species, especially their young.

Avoid chemicals

Modern pesticides are potent poisons that can easily sterilise our backyards.

Avoid bug zappers; not just to enjoy the serenity, but to avoid unnecessary invertebrate deaths. Avoid spraying your tomato plants as the spray will drift and exterminate nearby bees, ladybirds, and other friendly insects.

Embrace some mess

Nature abhors straight lines and spotless order.

Leaves and branches fall and rot. Trees don’t get trimmed. Grass, left alone, grows tall. All of these occurrences are natural and provide habitat and or additional nutrients for your garden. Messy, unkept corners of your garden. Piles of brush, compost heaps, provide useful shelter for a variety of smaller creatures that rigidly manicured yards do not.

Plant food plants

Especially local native bush tucker.

Local bush tucker provide food for wildlife and so much the better if they can help feed you. Exotic food plants can have environmental arguments; namely that the food producing footprint may be reduced elsewhere and there will be environmental benefits in less fossil fuel use in production, transport refrigeration, retail lighting and packaging.

Learn more, share more

Learn about and celebrate our local wildlife! Buy books! Read about our local flora and fauna. Teach others about it. Encourage your friends, neighbours, family and enemies to regard our wildlife through appreciative eyes. Do not garden for wildlife silently share the advice, the reasons, and your passion! The more wildlife gardeners in your street, the more wildlife there will be!

You can help

BIEPA's Flora Team is running a Backyard Biodiversity project in partnership with local businesses like The Butterfly House. and the Bribie Island Community Nursery.

Join this team to help get Bribie residents fired up about biodiversity in their own backyards.

Join B4B too

You can also help Ken spread the word!

When you join B4B SEQ for a $40 payment you will receive a colourful Backyards for Biodiversity sign for your fence and yard. This sign is a public contract to show the world what you value. You receive a sticker and one of the posters. Your membership card allows for two free tube stock plants from one of our participating nurseries.

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Unknown member
May 14, 2023

Thank you Mike for putting Ken's excellent address into a form that can be referred to by our members and others. It is very worthy and if a significant number of people put the ideas into practise it would certainly enhance and prove advantageous to our neighbourhoods and the environment. We are going to share this with friends who are not fortunate enough to live on our beautiful island.


Unknown member
May 13, 2023

So pleased to see this transcript here. I found Ken’s talk compelling, relevant and doable in this era where nature needs our support. It challenged our biases and offered solutions. I spoke to a couple at interval who said they couldn’t wait to get home and start transforming their yard. I hope they read this and let us know. Or anyone else who’s made a start. Send us a before and after photo!


Unknown member
May 12, 2023

An excellent briefing on the key themes and useful takeaways from Ken's talk. There's opportunity here for every resident with a garden to make a difference.

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