It's no urban myth - gardens are good for us

Tuesday, 16 May 2006

The great Australian backyard is under threat - and that could spell disaster for our children and our health.

University of Adelaide biodiversity expert Associate Professor Chris Daniels says the lack of gardens in new housing developments is a worrying urban trend.

"People are raising families in very sterile and antiseptic environments and our kids are at risk of growing up without environmental values," he says.

Dr Daniels, from the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Adelaide, says planners are forgetting the big picture in urban areas.

"Most of the new housing developments have very little garden area. This presents two problems: it limits the number of birds and plants; and it removes an incentive for families to exercise.

"Gardens are great exercise - especially for dads. Mowing the lawn, pruning the roses and putting in watering systems are very healthy pursuits. If you don't have a garden, what do dads do?"

Dr Daniels says raising children in a concrete environment might well stunt their environmental creativity and inquisitiveness: "It is certainly not healthy."

"There are good reasons for building low maintenance communities for the elderly, but not for younger communities."

The biodiversity academic attributes the loss of large numbers of flora and fauna in Adelaide's inner city areas to extensive clearing for housing developments.

"The more we simplify our environment, the less species will be able to inhabit it."

Dr Daniels cited the parklands as an example: "If you walk through the parklands you will only see about 8-10 species of birds. Yet if you cross the roads to the garden suburbs of Parkside or Rose Park you will see about four times the number of species. That's because these suburbs have gardens, more flowers and a much more complex environment."

Sections of the parklands could be developed to suit Adelaide's climate and bring back more native plants, birds, bats and butterflies, he says.

Thicker levels of understorey would encourage more fauna, albeit some noxious animals including European wasps and snakes. "Unfortunately, there is a perception that these things are undesirable in the parklands."


Contact Details

Dr Chris Daniels
Associate Professor
School of Earth & Environmental Sciences
The University of Adelaide
Business: + 61 8 8313 6129
Mobile: 0410 422 759

Mr David Ellis
Deputy Director, Media and Corporate Relations
External Relations
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 5414
Mobile: +61 (0)421 612 762