Citizen Conservation: An Opportunity to Save Australia’s Urban Biodiversity

Citizen conservation is an opportunity to protect and restore Australia’s dwindling biodiversity, thus safeguarding a range of important ecosystem services.

Below we explore how citizen conservation initiatives by Conservation Volunteers Australia are already making strides in creating wildlife habitat corridors in cities and urban areas through our Nature Blocks initiative, in partnership with the Bupa Foundation.

We also explore the state of Australia’s biodiversity, threats to biodiversity, and the role of citizen conservation initiatives in protecting and restoring nature.

The Australian Blue-banded bee pollinating a flower.

A blue Banded Native Bee buzzing around a perrenial basil in Summer in Australia

What is the state of Australia’s biodiversity?

Australia’s rich and unique biodiversity comprises around ten percent of the world’s species of plants and animals. It has high levels of endemism, with many plants and animals found in Australia occurring nowhere else on Earth.

Australia’s latest State of the Environment Report estimates there are between 600,000 and 700,000 native species in Australia and that around 70 percent are yet to be discovered.

However, Australia’s vast biodiversity is under threat and has some of the fastest declines of biodiversity in the world. Over 100 species have been classified as extinct, and over 1900 species or ecosystems are threatened with extinction.

These threats to biodiversity include habitat loss and fragmentation, land degradation, invasive species and disease with climate change playing an increasingly significant role.


The state of urban biodiversity in Australia

Given that most people live in cities in Australia, and that around half of all threatened species are found in cities, there is significant potential for conserving our biodiversity by focusing on citizen conservation efforts in cities and urban areas.

Citizen conservation is a solution that can help us achieve the goals of the Australian government’s Strategy for Nature 2019-2030 which aims to support healthy and functioning biological systems.

Australia’s Strategy for Nature has three main goals, each of which can be achieved through citizen conservation together with collaborative efforts from all sectors of business, industry and government:

  1. To connect all Australians with nature,
  2. To care for nature in all its diversity, and
  3. To share and build knowledge.

Citizen conservation: a solution to build back nature in cities

Citizen conservation involves people taking an active role in protecting species and the natural environment through a range of conservation activities. That includes beach cleanups, river cleanups, ecosystem restoration, monitoring wildlife populations through citizen science, and people taking steps to reduce their environmental impacts.

At CVA, we are champions of citizen conservation. Our initiatives to protect and restore Australian biodiversity focus on involving people all across the country to be active nature stewards.

Collaborative citizen engagement in restoring nature through planting native flora, removing pollution from beaches and rivers, and creating spaces for biodiversity in backyards and homes is all part of our strategy to build back nature and enhance biodiversity for current and future generations.

Woman creating a Nature Block, planting in a container.

Citizen conservation can provide a powerful solution to build back nature in cities, where much of our threatened species occur. This can be done through our Nature Blocks initiative, where people can download our CVA Community app and find resources on how to create spaces for native species to thrive in gardens, back yards, and urban spaces within homes.

Citizen conservation, and more specifically our Nature Blocks initiative, can also contribute towards the goals of Australia’s Strategy for Nature 2019-2030. Not only does the creation of nature Blocks connect Australians with nature, but Nature Blocks also help citizens take an active role in caring for nature and sharing and building knowledge about nature and conservation.

In addition, citizen conservation contributes towards many of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and their targets.

Furthermore, creating Nature Blocks can provide health, wellbeing and community resilience benefits.

A garden area with plants in pots.

Australians want more action to protect nature

Not only is citizen conservation a powerful tool to build back nature across Australia, but 97 percent of Australians actually want more action to be taken to protect nature. That’s according to a recent Biodiversity Concerns Report by the Biodiversity Council of Australia.

Considering that the majority of Australian land is owned or managed privately, there is opportunity to capitalise on this high interest from citizens in protecting biodiversity by involving citizens in conservation efforts.

The Australian government has created policies and initiatives aimed at encouraging land owners and managers to help protect and conserve nature. For example, Trust for Nature in Victoria recently announced that by entering into a conservation covenant to protect biodiversity, landowners would be eligible to receive tax exemptions.

Around the world, there are many examples of how local, regional and national governments are creating policies to encourage the sustainable management of land and the biodiversity occurring there. That includes payments for ecosystem services (PES), conservation easements and biodiversity offsets.

While these efforts to conserve biodiversity on private land are admirable, there’s a lot more that can be done.

At Conservation Volunteers Australia, we’re empowering Australians to get involved in taking action for nature by creating Nature Blocks at home or within communities, as well as coordinating a wide range of conservation volunteering activities and events across the country.

Pot plants against backyard fence.

Conserving biodiversity in Australia: citizens lead the way

When it comes to conserving biodiversity in Australia, particularly in urban areas where the majority of threatened species occur, citizens are leading the way.

Our Nature Blocks initiative, in partnership with the Bupa Foundation, is an example of how citizen conservation can create powerful impacts for nature, community building, wellness and health.

CVA’s Nature Blocks initiative has already achieved impactful results since it was launched in 2023. Our Nature Blocks report shows that 72,802 people have engaged with Nature Blocks, 600 Nature Blocks have been created, and 97 percent of people surveyed say they feel their health and wellbeing improved by taking part in the Nature Blocks initiative.

Creating a Nature Block is an easy way to get involved in practical regeneration and re-greening efforts, by creating important habitat corridors for wildlife and supporting the establishment of native plant gardens and spaces in towns and cities across Australia.

The ‘Biodiversity in Your Backyard’ research report which we undertook in collaboration with Arup, shows citizens can help achieve the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework’s goal of protecting 30 percent of nature by 2030 by restoring 30 percent of Australian backyards. This would be sufficient to create effective habitat corridors that support native wildlife, enabling biodiversity to thrive.

🪴Create your own Nature Block today! Download the CVA Community app to get started. 🪴