New report shows Nature Blocks can transform cities into havens for urban biodiversity

All across Australia, people have been creating their own Nature Blocks™ – small areas in gardens and homes that support biodiversity. 

These ‘blocks’ of nature, which can take many shapes – from pots, pollinator gardens to insect hotels and lizard lounges – are not only restoring nature to cities, but also create vital habitat corridors for ecosystems to function optimally. 

Considering that half of Australia’s threatened species live in urban areas, where the majority of Australia’s population also lives, our towns and cities are critical areas for nature conservation. 

However, biodiversity in cities faces a number of threats including loss and fragmentation of habitat, invasive species, climate change, and pollution. While there are numerous government and nonprofit initiatives aimed at protecting and restoring nature in cities, there is also huge potential for citizens to be part of the solution.

By creating Nature Blocks, people in cities are able to transform their homes and gardens into refuges for wildlife. Australians are thereby able to actively take part in building back nature, while simultaneously benefitting from the associated ecosystem services like nature helping to mitigate climate change impacts. 

Conservation Volunteers Australia launched the Nature Blocks initiative in August 2023, through a collaborative partnership with the Bupa Foundation. The aim is to restore critical habitat for biodiversity in cities, while also getting people involved in activities that can improve their wellness. 

The impact of Nature Blocks to date has been impressive. Our new report, Our Nature Blocks, 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. 

Below we explore what a Nature Block is, the importance of citizen conservation, how CVA’s Nature Block initiative is empowering people to be stewards of nature, and how to get involved in creating your very own Nature Block. 

What is a Nature Block?

A Nature Block is a space dedicated to bringing back indigenous plants and wildlife into any backyard or small city balcony. 

From a lizard lounge in a backyard, a bug hotel alongside a driveway, a nest box for possums in a garden tree, or a native garden in pots on a balcony – Nature Blocks create important habitats for indigenous species of plants and animals in cities. 

Everyone in Australia can take action for nature and create a Nature Block. It’s also really easy to do and CVA provides guides and useful resources to help you create a Nature Pot, with pollinator gardens, edible gardens, and many other types of habitat resources to come. 

One of the most exciting things about Nature Blocks is that together they create a patchwork of habitat corridors for wildlife, spread out across different biomes throughout Australia. This enables seed dispersal, pollination, genetic diversity, and helps ensure availability of food, etc.

If you consider that every garden and living space has the potential to host a Nature Block, then the cumulative impact of creating habitats for nature across the entire country would be astounding. 

Everyone can take part in the Nature Blocks movement by downloading the CVA Community app and starting a Nature Block today. Already 600 Nature Blocks have been created and listed on the CVA Community app since the initiative began just over 7 months ago. 

The importance of citizen conservation in protecting and restoring nature in cities

The vast majority of Australians live in cities. Cities and towns are also where half of all threatened species in Australia are found. This makes cities critical spaces for nature conservation.

And while many cities do create parks and protect certain habitats, wildlife needs habitat corridors to safely move, migrate, disperse and breed. People living in cities can therefore help to turn their gardens and balconies into havens for local biodiversity.

Not only can citizen conservation through creating Nature Blocks help restore biodiversity, but when done by many people at the same time, gardens and balconies then become habitat corridors that allow urban biodiversity to flourish and provide important and valuable ecosystem services. 

Research has shown that a block-by-block approach to habitat restoration is actually critical for species survival and should be a conservation priority. When creating Nature blocks, we encourage participants to grow at least 4 different native species of plants to help support a broad range of insects.

And in research we undertook with Arup on ‘Biodiversity in Your Backyard’, we found that by restoring 30 percent of Australian backyards, this is sufficient to create effective habitat corridors that support native wildlife.

CVA’s Nature Blocks initiative: empowering a community of nature stewards

As an urban habitat initiative, Nature Blocks can be as small as a square metre and can contribute significantly to supporting urban nature. Nature Blocks empowers people to get involved in nature conservation and through the CVA Community app, CVA has created a community of nature stewards across Australia.

Around the world, cities, countries and people have been demanding increased action to save biodiversity and restore ecosystems. Governments and world leaders came together at COP15 in Montreal and agreed on a global resolution to protect 30% of nature by 2030 by establishing the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (also known as the biodiversity plan for life on Earth, or the GBF). 

To achieve this goal, and the many related ones that comprise the UN Sustainable Development Goals, people need to (and want to) be part of the solution. Many people want to make a positive difference and to actively support regeneration and restoration of ecosystems. CVA’s conservation programmes and initiatives create a solution to this demand.

Through Nature Blocks, Australians are now able to play a meaningful and active role in transforming cities into havens for biodiversity. And together with the CVA community, these connected Nature blocks habitats enable nature to thrive and interact. 

Nature Blocks can deliver action on the 30×30 goal for nature and the SDGs, by helping to restore biodiversity and ecosystems so that they can be healthy and function optimally. 

Nature Blocks are also particularly powerful nature-based solutions to provide habitat and corridors for smaller species like birds, butterflies, bees and other insects.

New report shows incredible impact of Nature Blocks 

CVA empowers everyone in Australia to contribute towards nature conservation. 

We involve people in conservation through hands-on volunteering and through the creation of Nature Blocks. Through our conservation initiatives and our CVA Community app, we are building a community of nature stewards who are a driving force for positive change in their communities. 

This positive change includes beneficial impacts for nature, as well as for human wellbeing. Our latest report, Our Nature Blocks, summarises some of these positive impacts which are outlined below. 

 

Impacts for nature

CVA has a long history of creating positive impacts for nature through community conservation programs that span over 40 years. The Nature Blocks initiative, while comparatively new – having launched under a year ago, has achieved impressive impact. It is our goal to amplify and expand this impact across Australia, so that we can achieve another 1 million actions for nature by 2030.

These are some of the impacts already achieved through the Nature Blocks initiative:

  • 600 Nature Blocks have been created
  • 72,802 people have been engaged in Nature Blocks (between August 2023 to December 2023)
  • 87% of people participating in the Nature Blocks initiative expressed an increased motivation to take action for nature
  • 79% of people participating in the Nature Blocks initiative expressed improved environmental knowledge and skills

Impacts on wellbeing

In addition to having multiple benefits for nature, the Nature Blocks initiative also helps people to improve their health and wellbeing. The report found that 97% of surveyed participants showed an improvement in their health and wellbeing. 

Considering the sharp rise in deteriorating levels of mental health and wellness globally, this finding is significant and shows that connection to nature may help to provide multiple benefits for societies around the world. 

The link between conservation action and health and wellbeing underlines CVA’s partnership with the Bupa Foundation. Roger Sharp, Bupa APAC Chief Sustainability & Corporate Affairs Officer, aptly said that “As a health and care company, we know the link between the health of the planet and the health of people is undeniable and that we all have a role to play in protecting and regenerating nature, particularly in our cities.”

 

Get involved in building back nature: create your own Nature Block!

Are you ready to start building back nature in your garden and home? Everyone is invited to download our CVA Community app and start creating a Nature Block, anywhere in Australia. 

The CVA Community app provides access to a digital community of conservationists who are creating measurable impact for nature in towns and cities all across Australia. 

By integrating conservation and technology, Nature Blocks is pioneering an innovative new model of action for nature that’s inclusive, customisable and impactful.

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