A neglected plot of land in Sydney’s Inner West is set to be transformed into an urban wildlife refuge as conservation experts increasingly seek small plots of inner city land.
The 0.6 hectare portion of Crown land known as The Hill, which lies behind Glebe’s Tramsheds, is currently walled.
Parts of the green space are asphalted and weeds are growing out of control.
“It was rubbish advice,” said Andrew Wood of the Glebe Society.
“Subsequently, part of it was covered with tar and became a parking lot for the Harold Park Shepherds’ dogs and run.”
Now, the Glebe Society has received a $40,000 innovation grant from the City of Sydney to create hidden cameras and detailed wildlife surveys in collaboration with the University of Sydney.
It is hoped that research on the site will allow it to become home to more birds, reptiles, and native microbes, along with pollinators such as bees and flies.
Trails are “stepped”, not green
There is an “urgent need” for more green spaces within the city such as The Hill, said Dieter Hochuli of the University of Sydney’s School of Life and Environmental Sciences.
He said the project could become a “proof of concept” for similar user areas in Australian cities.
Professor Hochuli said conservationists generally focused on securing large sites intact and ignored small, isolated areas.
“There are pockets all over towns all over Australia that we might have said in the past, ‘This is too small and there’s no point in it,'” he said. ABC Radio Sydney.
“But relatively small things can actually be of conservation value.”
Prof Hochuli said providing sparse patches of native bush in a city could make a difference to the wildlife that successfully colonizes an area.
He said that birds such as the wren were able to make 1 km hops, rather than having to fly 3 km between stations.
“The idea of creating springboards with green spaces is really important,” said Professor Hochuli.
“We’re setting ourselves up a little bit for failure if we just look at those big, intact green fairways.”
Enhance communication behind the fence
Unlike other restoration projects, The Hill will remain gated from the public.
This is partly because the site is polluted and would require expensive work to be suitable for a public park or playground.
For an urban wildlife refuge it was not necessary to disturb the land, Mr. Wood said,
“It actually becomes a very cheap option compared to trying to remove all the pollution and put it back into something the public can use safely,” he said.
Professor Hochuli said the fences would also keep out domestic cats and foxes, which can prey on local wildlife.
“Once the fence is put up, there’s a whole host of plants and animals moving in,” he said.
But the community group still wants to make sure that local people can develop a connection to the area.
There will be information sessions on the findings of the research and discussions about organizing tours for local schools and community groups.
Create an urban wildlife refuge
Professor Hochuli encourages the townspeople to look for similar sites that can be turned into urban wildlife refuges.
“The real potential is not to discover hidden gems but to take what already exists and improve it,” he said.
Prof Hochuli said getting involved with community environmental groups and talking to local councils, who must have land ownership details, were good places to start.
Mr. Wood said the Glebe Society’s experience showed that it was possible to secure grant money to turn an idea into a reality.
Given the competition for public space, he says it’s important to collaborate with biodiversity and conservation experts to help make a case for protecting an area.
“You will have to make some strong arguments because everyone in the community has an idea of what an area of land could be used for,” said Mr. Wood.
“In the local community, having science back up your arguments is a real strength.”