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Biodiversity in Your Backyard

by Beverley Paine

How many animals do you depend on every day to stay alive? How many plants? And what about other living things?

Make a chart with the headings - PLANTS, ANIMALS, OTHER - and go for a walk around your house and garden with mum and dad and see how many you can list. Don't forget to list all the tiny and microscopic creatures that you can find! Carefully look under leaves, rocks and logs. Look up at the sky and in tall trees. Check behind furniture and in damp places inside. What else is living and growing where you live?

A few years ago Macquarie University researcher, Andrew Beattie, set out to count how many species lived in an average Sydney backyard - animals, birds, plants, insects, worms, spiders, micro-organisms, etc. He counted at least 4,620 different species! And he's certain there were many thousands more species he missed.

The planet Earth is full of amazingly diverse creatures and plants, all dependent on this diversity for survival. Did you know b iodiversity includes all the plants, animals and micro-organisms, the genetic information they contain and the ecosystems they form. We are lucky to live on one of the most diverse countries on the planet, home to more than one million species of plants and animals. Many of them are endemic, found nowhere else in the world. These account for 85% of Australia 's flowering plants, 84% of mammals, over 45% of birds, and 89% of inshore temperate zone fish. A highly diverse and complex ecosystem is a sign of health and has a positive impact on the quality of air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat, as well as providing us with materials for use in our daily lives and nature to enjoy.

Would you like to attract more native birds, butterflies or cute furry creatures into your backyard?

You can easily enhance the biodiversity of your backyard by planting indigenous species. They help to create shelter, shade, and nesting places, while preventing erosion and providing food in the form of leaves, nectar, berries, seeds and associated bugs. Even small areas along the side of your house will help provide habitat for native fauna creating 'wildlife corridors' for animals and insects to move from one feeding or nesting area to another. Leave leaf litter, twigs, and rocks as they provide miniature habitats for plants and creatures too. A few sheltered moist areas in your garden bring in bugs which feed birds, lizards and frogs. Try to photograph or draw the different creatures you find and the plants they love to live near.

Ask your neighbours to do the same so that collectively you can begin to not only provide 'wildlife corridors' but also enjoy watching nature close to home.

Check out these CSIRO Backyard Biodiversity pages for more ideas:

Identifying Bugs: http://www.csiro.au/resources/backyard-biodiversity-bugs.html
Find out about the fascinating world of insects then use the guide to help identify insects in your neighbourhood.

Endangered Species Activity: http://www.csiro.au/resources/ps23p.html
Australia has many animals, birds, plants and other species that are threatened or endangered. Find out more about this issue and try an activity to help protect biodiversity in your backyard.

Field Adventures: http://www.csiro.au/resources/ps220.html
Backyard Biodiversity goes on in gardens, nature reserves, creeks, wildlife parks and zoos. Try these ideas to get involved in biodiversity activities in your area.

Invasive Species: http://www.csiro.au/resources/InvasiveSpeciesActivity.html
Cane toads, fire ants and blackberry bushes - read about the environmental and economic problems caused by invasive species and try an activity to learn more.

Salinity: http://www.csiro.au/resources/ps20l.html
Salinity is a major environmental threat in many parts of Australia . Read more about it then try a salinity experiment.

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Beverley Paine with her children, and their home educated children, relaxing at home.

Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.

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We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine

The information on this website is of a general nature only and is not intended as personal or professional advice. This site merges and incorporates 'Homeschool Australia' and 'Unschool Australia'.

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