Hidden Nature in Annerley: Over 1,000 Species Discovered in Suburban Backyard


Did you know that a team of scientists has documented over 1,000 species of fauna at a suburban backyard in Annerley, highlighting the unexpected biodiversity thriving even in urban landscapes?

A Surprising Discovery

During the COVID-19 lockdowns of 2020, a shared house in Annerley, home to three University of Queensland researchers, became the focal point of an unexpected scientific discovery. 

Mathematician Matt Holden, ecologist Andrew Rogers, and taxonomist Russell Yong embarked on a year-long journey to catalogue the biodiversity in their backyard. What they found was nothing short of remarkable.

“We asked a large number of ecologists and conservation scientists how many species they’d expect to find in this setting and they predicted only 200,” said Dr Holden. “But after 60 days of surveying, we’d already discovered 777 species.”

A Diverse Ecosystem at Home

Their findings, published in the journal Ecology, revealed a rich tapestry of life, including 436 moth and butterfly species, 56 different spiders, eight types of reptiles, and 56 birds. The bird species catalogued included local favourites like the tawny frogmouths, laughing kookaburras, blue-faced honeyeaters, and rainbow lorikeets.

“Blue-tongued skinks hibernated under the garage and at night blue-banded and teddy-bear bees slept in the hedges under the front window,” Dr Holden added, underscoring the complexity of the ecosystem right outside their door.

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Mathematician Matt Holden, ecologist Andrew Rogers, and taxonomist Russell Yong
Photo Credit: University of Queensland

New Discoveries and Implications

The team also uncovered species not previously recorded in Australia’s leading biodiversity database, Atlas of Living Australia. This included a new mosquito species, a sandfly, and an invasive flatworm, Platydemus manokwari.

“It shows suburban houses and apartments could have far more biodiversity than ever imagined, especially when it comes to insects,” Dr Holden emphasised the implications of their findings for urban biodiversity. 

Urban Biodiversity: A Call to Action

The study not only sheds light on the rich biodiversity that can exist in urban areas but also serves as a call to action. Dr Holden suggests that the way people tend to their homes and gardens, such as keeping low-maintenance trees and shrubs and avoiding manicured lawns and pesticides, can significantly boost the number of species found.

This groundbreaking research from Annerley is a reminder of the natural wonders that can be found in our own backyards, urging us to rethink how we interact with our immediate environment.

Published 12-Dec-2023