Cities for nature

Connectivity of green spaces is important for conservation across a city. Find out about urban ecology and how you can help Sydney's communities and nature thrive.

Stepping stones across water with reeds in foregournd and  bushes on left and on other side of water.

Cities are ecosystems that include nature, people and the built environment.

Although Sydney might seem green, the abundance and diversity of our native plants and animals are decreasing. This is largely due to habitat loss and fragmentation, and the declining quality of habitat; for example, by introduced pests and weeds.

Key conservation actions

The National Green Infrastructure Network’s Urban Ecology Research Investigation, funded by the NSW Environmental Trust, recommends key conservation actions to improve urban biodiversity in large cities in New South Wales.

Listed in order of importance, these actions will help our native plants and animals thrive in growing cities.

Protect and restore existing bushland

Protecting remaining habitats is essential to avoid the further loss of our native plants and animals. Established trees and native bushland help clean air and water, store carbon, cool our streets and provide homes for wildlife.

Bigger is best when it comes to healthy bushland. Larger areas of bushland – ideally above 50 hectares – tend to remain in better condition and support a greater variety of habitats and species.

Habitat restoration, such as bush regeneration and weed management, improves the health of damaged ecosystems. Healthy ecosystems support more animals, and benefit people too.

Protect our rivers and streams

Planting native species along rivers and streams will help prevent soil erosion and keep waterways healthy, as well as create wildlife habitat and green corridors.

We can also improve waterway health by capturing rain and stormwater runoff to store and filter water and reduce local flooding using:

  • porous or permeable paving that allows water to soak through
  • bioswales or trenches planted with grasses, flowering herbs, shrubs and mulch that slow water runoff and filter out pollutants; for example, from a car park
  • planted detention basins or depressions that slow, store and filter stormwater runoff
  • rain gardens, or gardens with a shallow depression, which are designed to capture stormwater that runs off hard surfaces when it rains.

Connect habitats with waterways and green corridors

Image of Parramatta River with water in foreground reflecting clouds in the sky and river banks covered in bush in the distance.

Habitat fragmentation, or the loss of connectivity due to clearing, is one of the greatest threats to biodiversity in Sydney.

Connectivity of our natural bushland is vital for the movement of animals, plant pollen and seeds to maintain healthy resilient populations able to adapt to threats such as climate change.

Green areas can be connected with a mixture of native trees, shrubs and groundcover. This will increase biodiversity, provide wildlife corridors, shade and public access to green spaces.

Conserved or restored bushland corridors need to be large enough and undisturbed to enable species to have refuge and safely move between patches of bush. Lost connectivity can be restored by bush regeneration.

‘Buffer zones’ on the edges of bushland corridors can provide homes for wildlife and beautiful places for all our communities to enjoy. 

This includes riparian zones, where the land meets the river. Riparian zones are nature’s corridors and often support unique wildlife. The protection and restoration of Sydney’s riparian zones will ensure a greater variety of native plants, birds and other animals, and contribute to the health and wellbeing of our rivers and ourselves.

Create networks of green and blue across the city

Bitumen bike path on left with native grasses, shrubs and trees on right.

A healthy city is one with linked parks, rivers, wetlands, and bushland. Along with street trees, these areas support our native wildlife, provide areas for relaxation and recreation, and help keep our climate comfortable and clean. 

The NSW Government is committed to the design of healthy cities, for example:

Enhance your local area by increasing green spaces

Verge garden with a variety of plants and a tree in Waverley with road, shops and cars in the background.‘Informal’ green spaces along railway tracks, vacant land, industrial sites, verges, roundabouts, and footpaths can provide places for nature to thrive and move through a city.

As well as growing plants, you can increase reflective and permeable surfaces in private and public gardens, pocket parks, streets, car parks, and on shade structures, green walls and green roofs.

You can also create habitat stepping stones for local wildlife on your green roof, front and backyard, or street verge.

Help Sydney nature thrive

You can help Sydney’s urban ecosystems thrive. Take some time to:

Sleepy koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) lying on a branch in a tree in Western Sydney.Movement matters for koalas

The koala has preferred habitat for eating, sleeping and living the koala lifestyle.

Koalas also need adjoining green corridors to allow them to mix with other koalas. This helps maintain healthy populations.

We are working to support koala populations in the wild with the NSW Koala Strategy. Part of this work involves making sure koalas have access to better quality bushland away from urban threats like dogs and cars.

We also monitor koalas in Western Sydney to manage threats to this population and stabilise their numbers.

Photo: One of OEH's monitored koalas in Western Sydney. Ian Radosavljevic/OEH