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  • Networking, Habitat Restoration, and Restoration Education in Sydney, Australia
  • Bev Debrincat (bio)

The Sydney Basin bioregion lies on the east coast of Australia and covers 3,624,000 hectares, which makes it a little larger than Maryland, USA. This is one of the most species-rich bioregions in Australia in all major groups of organisms. There are also 92 "vulnerable" and 60 "endangered" plant species listed under the Threatened Species Conservation Act (NSW 1995), as well as many species of endangered animals. Major threats to the biota are grazing in agricultural areas and expanding development in Sydney and the seven other population centers within the bioregion.

Sydney, with its beautiful harbor and a population of just over 4.2 million people, has remnant natural areas along its streams and in isolated parks. These consist of forests, woodlands, and scrub (that is, shrubland), collectively called "bush." Many of these areas are on rocky sandstone, which produces a spectacular landscape. Urban natural areas are generally long and narrow and suffer edge effects from the "built environment," including nutrient enrichment and weeds that wash in from gardens and roadsides. These areas are managed by local governments called councils, of which there are 34 in Sydney. My local councils are Ryde and Hunter's Hill (as I live almost on their boundary).

In 1999, while working as a contract bush regenerator and seeing the extent of the degradation of our bushland, I established the Volunteer Bush Regenerators' Network [End Page 146] in the Ryde council area. The purpose was to pull together all volunteers who were working quietly—and at that time were mostly without supervision or ecological training—to try to establish a bushcare program within our local council area. Our group applied for and won a grant from the Australian Government to fund the first part-time bushcare officer to organize volunteers in Ryde for a two-year period. This venture was so successful that our council took over funding this position and extended it to full time, and it has been running ever since.

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Figure 1.

We have been promoting the Habitat Network through a variety of interactive activities, including stalls at community events, such as the Moocooboola Fair in Boronia Park, Hunter's Hill (pictured here). Kids are attracted by our competition (and bring mum and dad with them) where they have to match birds and other animals to habitat. Answers are provided so everyone is a winner. Winners take home a native habitat plant to grow in their garden. Note the new Habitat Network logo visible in the display.

Photo by Bev Debrincat

I also saw a need to educate the wider community about environmental issues generally. With friends, I established the International Environmental Weed Foundation (IEWF), a nonprofit organization, in 2003. Our objective is to educate people about non-native invasive plants, their impacts, and control techniques.

In 2005, during a discussion of conservation issues, my friend Pepe, who runs a large orchid nursery in Ecuador, became excited and said that I must speak immediately to another friend of his in France—James Aronson—as our ideas were so closely aligned. James introduced me to the concept of restoring natural capital (RNC) (Aronson et al. 2007), which looks at the function of the whole landscape and works with local communities to find achievable and affordable ways to restore the goods and services that nature provides for the benefit of the environment, production systems, and the people.

From this meeting, our Foundation decided to expand its vision to act more holistically and pursue the restoration of degraded ecosystems and the natural capital they represent. We received a grant in mid-2008 to develop the RNC approach to urban restoration in Sydney. Our partners in this project are the councils of Ryde and Hunter's Hill. We also have the support of the Field of Mars Environmental Education Centre and the Ryde–Hunter's Hill Flora and Fauna Preservation Society.

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Figure 2.

Riverglade Reserve planting day on National Tree Day with an enthusiastic group of 75 volunteers—most of whom are members of the Habitat Network...


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pp. 146-148
Launched on MUSE
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