Enablers and challenges when engaging local communities for urban biodiversity conservation in Australian cities

Date: 14, Aug, 2021
Author(s):   Taylor, L., Maller, C.J., Soanes, K., Ramalho, C.E., Aiyer, A., Parris, K.M., Threlfall, C.G.
Publisher: Sustainability Science

Across all landscape types, environmental managers work with communities to conserve biodiversity. The effectiveness of conservation practice, however, relies on acknowledging differences in preferences and values of nature. Implementing urban conservation is challenging because cities have diverse social, cultural and ecological attributes, meaning there are no simple solutions for the management or co-management of biodiversity. There is little guidance for urban environmental managers on how to 1) engage local urban communities and 2), implement conservation actions specific to cities and their communities. We conducted semi-structured interviews with 27 environmental managers from government and not-for-profit organizations across five Australian capital cities to 1) explore how environmental managers engaged local communities, and 2) understand the factors that enabled or constrained that engagement in conservation. Our aim was to understand the enablers and constraints of engagement with a view to share insights and patterns in the context of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) conceptual framework’s recognition of the diversity of values associated with nature’s contributions to people (NCP). We found that urban environmental managers facilitated NCP by working to improve people’s relationship with nature. Interviewees reported a range of enablers for community-based biodiversity conservation, including supportive organizational policies and strategies, community support, engaging Indigenous advisory groups, and deploying multi-use, integrative human-nature designs. Constraints and challenges included a lack of top-down commitment, reliance on individuals, and overly simplistic engagement strategies. Based on these findings, we identified opportunities for improved community engagement relevant to organizations responsible for urban environmental management.