.

  • Written by Adrian Marshall, Lecturer, Landscape Architecture and Urban Ecology, University of Melbourne
Even the standard grassed nature strip has value for local wildlife. Michelle/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

You may mock the national anthem by singing “Our land abounds in nature strips” but what you might not know is how true that is. In Melbourne, for example, more than a third of all public green space is nature strips. (That figure includes roundabouts, medians and other green bits of the street.)

That’s a remarkable amount. The nature strip is everywhere. A million small patches combine into a giant park spanning the city, making it a significant player in our urban ecosystems.


Read more: Reinventing density: overcoming the suburban setback


A second remarkable thing is that the nature strip is public land that private citizens are required by law to maintain. Councils manage the trees, but we residents mow the lawn.

What are the rules on nature strips?

Succulents, Agapanthus and Gazanias are the most common plantings on nature strips. Adrian Marshall CC BY 4.0, Author provided

Many residents go further and plant a street tree or some garden plants – succulents, Agapanthus and Gazanias are the most common. But the chances are that, whatever the garden on the nature strip, it’s against the rules.

The rules on nature strips vary from council to council. Some councils don’t allow any plantings. Others restrict plantings by height or allow only plants indigenous to the local area. In some areas, nature strips can only be planted to prevent erosion on steep slopes.

Some councils disallow food plants, for fear of historic lead contamination from leaded petrol. Others insist on no plants within a metre of the kerb and two metres of the footpath.


Read more: Farming the suburbs – why can’t we grow food wherever we want?


These bylaws are inconsistent and illogical. For instance, councils that insist on indigenous species nevertheless plant exotic street trees. Councils that say plants must be less than 30cm high to ensure they don’t block drivers’ sight lines still allow vehicles to park on the street, blocking sight lines.

Bylaws deny us many benefits

To have council bylaws restrict or disallow gardening in the nature strip flies in the face of common sense. Street greenery, whether its trees, shrubs or lawn, provides many benefits. The science is in on this.

Urban wildlife uses street greenery for habitat and food and as green corridors for movement.

Even for those who mow, the lawns of nature strips are not just turf grass. They are home to over 150 species of plants, based on my yet-to-be-published survey data for nearly 50 neighbourhoods, confirming earlier studies. Many of these, like the clovers, provide important resources for pollinators.

One US study showed that changing from a weekly mow to every three weeks increased the number of flowers in a lawn by 250%. Less mowing is good news for bees and butterflies.

An unpublished recent survey by the author and colleagues found gardening in the nature strip adds native plants to the streetscape, increases biodiversity and add structural complexity (more layers of plants, more types of stuff), which is important for many species.

The greater the diversity of plantings, the greater the benefits a nature strip can provide. TEDxMelbourne/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

Street greenery helps water soak into the ground, filtering out pollutants, recharging aquifers and making rivers healthier. It cools streets and helps counter the urban heat island effect. It also promotes a sense of community, encourages walking and lowers the incidence of heart disease, diabetes, asthma and depression.


Read more: Increasing tree cover may be like a 'superfood' for community mental health


But councils tend to be risk-averse. They worry they will be sued if someone trips on groundcover or stubs their toe on an out-of-place garden gnome.

Fortunately, this risk aversion isn’t universal. For instance, the City of Vincent in Western Australia is so keen for residents to convert lawn to waterwise plantings that it will remove turf and provide native plants.

But, as climate change looms, stubbed toes are not the main risk we should be worrying about. Rather, we must urgently remake our cities and our culture for sustainability and resilience.


Read more: If planners understand it's cool to green cities, what's stopping them?


Gardening becomes a neighbourly act

One of the great things about gardening in the nature strip is that people are more likely to do it if their neighbours do it. It’s contagious, a positive-feedback loop creating a greener street.

Our recent survey found residents who garden in the nature strip have a greater sense of community than those who don’t.

A well-designed street garden, fully covering the nature strip, allowing pedestrian access to cars and using indigenous plants. Adrian Marshall CC BY 4.0, Author provided

Interestingly, the benefits nature strips provide are not equally distributed across the city. For instance, newer neighbourhoods have more nature strip than older neighbourhoods (though their trees are younger). People garden the nature strip more on minor roads than major roads, and in more socially advantaged neighbourhoods.

Almost a quarter of residential properties in Melbourne have some sort of nature strip gardening. If councils were to encourage this activity we might achieve more street greening with little cost to our cash-strapped councils. Such encouragement would also free many residents of their sense of frustration at being required to maintain the nature strip but forbidden to do anything more than mow.

Given that more than a third of our public green space is nature strip, the many small actions of residents can add up to substantial positive change.

Adrian Marshall does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Authors: Adrian Marshall, Lecturer, Landscape Architecture and Urban Ecology, University of Melbourne

Read more http://theconversation.com/our-land-abounds-in-nature-strips-surely-we-can-do-more-than-mow-a-third-of-urban-green-space-124781

Why do many people with Parkinson's disease develop an addiction? We built a virtual casino to find out

We knew people with Parkinson's disease were at heightened risk of developing addictive behaviours like gambling. Our research gives insight into why this is. From shutterstock.comParkinson’s di...

Philip Mosley, Research Fellow, Systems Neuroscience Laboratory, QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute - avatar Philip Mosley, Research Fellow, Systems Neuroscience Laboratory, QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute

Up the creek: the $85 million plan to desalinate water for drought relief

The deal to crank up Adelaide’s desalination plant to make more water available to farmers in the drought-stricken Murray-Darling Basin makes no sense. It involves the federal government paying...

Lin Crase, Professor of Economics and Head of School, University of South Australia - avatar Lin Crase, Professor of Economics and Head of School, University of South Australia

12 simple ways you can reduce bushfire risk to older homes

There are no guarantees in bushfires, but you can improve the odds your house survives a blaze. Photo by Edward Doody, courtesy of Arkin Tilt Architects, Author providedSeventy-five years of Australia...

Douglas Brown, Casual Academic, Western Sydney University - avatar Douglas Brown, Casual Academic, Western Sydney University

Robots with benefits: how sexbots are marketed as companions

Sexbot Emma, from AI Tech, is advertised as a "real AI you can talk to". She offers "warm hugs" and will "feel your feelings". YouTube/ScreenshotWhen thinking of sexbots, companionship might not be th...

Fiona Andreallo, Lecturer in digital culture, University of Sydney - avatar Fiona Andreallo, Lecturer in digital culture, University of Sydney

Holy bin chickens: ancient Egyptians tamed wild ibis for sacrifice

A scene from the Books of the Dead (based at the Egyptian Museum) shows the ibis-headed god Thoth recording the result of "the final judgement". Wasef et al./PLOS ONE, CC BY-SAThese days, not many Aus...

Sally Wasef, Postdoctoral research fellow, Griffith University - avatar Sally Wasef, Postdoctoral research fellow, Griffith University

Sonic havens: how we use music to make ourselves feel at home

Music played through headphones can immerse the listener in a more intimate experience. Stokkete/ShutterstockThe concept of “home” refers to more than bricks and mortar. Just as cities ar...

Michael James Walsh, Assistant Professor Social Science, University of Canberra - avatar Michael James Walsh, Assistant Professor Social Science, University of Canberra

Nation-building to 'national shame': the ABC's complex debate over its role as sports broadcaster

ABC once viewed sports coverage as integral to its mission of nation-building. But in recent years, it has grown far more ambivalent about sports. Dean Lewins/AAPThe ABC has announced it will not prov...

Michael Ward, PhD candidate, University of Sydney - avatar Michael Ward, PhD candidate, University of Sydney

How does poor air quality from bushfire smoke affect our health?

New South Wales and Queensland are in the grip of a devastating bushfire emergency, which has tragically resulted in the loss of homes and lives. But the smoke produced can affect many more people n...

Brian Oliver, Research Leader in Respiratory cellular and molecular biology at the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research and Senior Lecturer, School of Medical & Molecular Biosciences, University of Technology Sydney - avatar Brian Oliver, Research Leader in Respiratory cellular and molecular biology at the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research and Senior Lecturer, School of Medical & Molecular Biosciences, University of Technology Sydney

Bushfires can make kids scared and anxious: here are 5 steps to help them cope

More than 600 schools have been closed, and some damaged, in recent days as bushfires rage across Queensland and New South Wales. Some students have been urgently evacuated while in school. People hav...

Toni Noble, Adjunct Professor, Institute for Positive Psychology & Education, Australian Catholic University - avatar Toni Noble, Adjunct Professor, Institute for Positive Psychology & Education, Australian Catholic University

5 Things Men Need to Know about Male Augmentation Procedures

You may be surprised to learn that men are just as likely as women are to seek out more information about plastic surgery procedures. While some may be interested in a nose job, others may be inte...

News Company - avatar News Company

'Like volcanoes on the ranges': how Australian bushfire writing has changed with the climate

Bushfire writing has long been a part of Australian literature. Tales of heroic rescues and bush Christmases describe a time when the fire season was confined only to summer months and Australia&rs...

Grace Moore, Senior lecturer in English, the University of Otago, New Zealand, University of Otago - avatar Grace Moore, Senior lecturer in English, the University of Otago, New Zealand, University of Otago

Farmers, murder and the media: getting to the bottom of the city-country divide

Left, farmer Ian Turnbull being who was convicted of murdering compliance officer Glen Turner. Right, Mr Turner's partner Alison McKenzie outside court. Tensions over land clearing can have tragic con...

Tanya M Howard, Senior research fellow, University of New England - avatar Tanya M Howard, Senior research fellow, University of New England

If Australian police officers are allowed to shoot to kill, they should be better trained

There is no clear evidence guns make police safer, but officers feel safer with firearms at their disposal. ShutterstockAustralians woke to the news last weekend that a 19-year-old Warlpiri man had b...

Rick Sarre, Professor of Law and Criminal Justice, University of South Australia - avatar Rick Sarre, Professor of Law and Criminal Justice, University of South Australia

Why municipal waste-to-energy incineration is not the answer to NZ's plastic waste crisis

Since the Chinese plastic recycling market closed, 58% of New Zealand’s plastic waste goes to countries in South-East Asia. from www.shutterstock.com, CC BY-NDNew Zealand is ranked the third-mos...

Trisia Farrelly, Senior Lecturer, Massey University - avatar Trisia Farrelly, Senior Lecturer, Massey University

The robbery of the century: the cum-ex trading scandal and why it matters

Cum-ex trading, like a magic trick, involves shares 'disappearing' then 'reappearing' with a new owner to enable two parties to simultaneously claim ownership of the one stock. www.shutterstock.comIt...

Alex Simpson, Senior Lecturer in Criminology, Macquarie University - avatar Alex Simpson, Senior Lecturer in Criminology, Macquarie University

What did the High Court decide in the Pell case? And what happens now?

Two judges in the High Court of Australia this morning referred Cardinal George Pell’s application for special leave to appeal his convictions to a full bench of the High Court. While not a ful...

Ben Mathews, Professor, School of Law, Queensland University of Technology - avatar Ben Mathews, Professor, School of Law, Queensland University of Technology

As flames encroach, those at risk may lose phone signal when they need it most

Yesterday, New South Wales and Queensland issued fire warnings classified as either “catastrophic”, “severe” or “extreme” - and these conditions will remain in the ...

Stanley Shanapinda, Research Fellow, La Trobe University - avatar Stanley Shanapinda, Research Fellow, La Trobe University

Money and investment: A guide to 'better than your bank' choices

Being able to make your money work harder for you is essential these days. Whether you live in Perth, Sydney, Melbourne or beyond, it is crucial to think about building up your personal wealth. Doin...

News Company - avatar News Company

If you've given your DNA to a DNA database, US police may now have access to it

DNA database giant Ancestry lets members access international records including the convict and free settler lists, passenger lists, Australian and New Zealand electoral rolls and military records. Pa...

Jane Tiller, Ethical, Legal & Social Adviser - Public Health Genomics, Monash University - avatar Jane Tiller, Ethical, Legal & Social Adviser - Public Health Genomics, Monash University

Sick and Tired of Your Dead End Job? Try Teaching!

Tired of the same old grind at the office? Want an opportunity to impact lives both in your community and around the world? Do you love to travel and have new experiences? Teaching English is the perfect job for you! All you need is a willingness to ...

News Company - avatar News Company

The Impact of an Aging Population in Australia

There’s an issue on the horizon that Australia needs to prepare for. The portion of elderly citizens that make up the country’s overall population is increasing, and we might not have the infrastructure in place to support this. Australians h...

News Company - avatar News Company

LifeStyle

How to Make Your Girlfriend’s Birthday Extra Special

Your girlfriend’s birthday is your opportunity to show her how much you care. But how exactly do...

A Guide to Building Your Kid’s Confidence

As your child grows, confidence is key. Having low self-esteem as a child can have a detrimental e...

3 Hacks that Will Extend the Life of Your Hair Extensions

Everybody has the right to enjoy beautiful, long hair, including you! If you’ve always heard a...

Lessons in Empathy for Children

The ability to be able to understand and share the feelings of a fellow human being – empathy ...