Urban Nature

Sydney is a sprawling metropolis. But it’s also a beautiful city full of parks, greenspaces, and natural reserves. I find the interplay of the natural biological/ecological element in built-up environments fascinating. It’s a niche scientific field known as Urban Ecology, but I like to think of it more like Urban Nature. Here is a smattering of some natural sights I’ve been intrigued by around the city so far:


Let’s start out with the base…geology of course. Sydney is built upon a vast expanse of sandstone. Add the weathering action from the maritime climate, and this sandstone erodes into numerous cliffs that expose the natural patterning of the rock. Early Sydnians made use of the sandstone, using convict labor to carve steps into the soft rock and quarrying stone for Sydney’s elegant public buildings. (Images: grottos of eroded sandstone pockets; contrast of light rock and dark staining from running water; color patterning; color patterning)



I wouldn’t be true to myself if I wasn’t fascinated by the new plants I’ve seen here. They may be cultivated as landscape plants, but their wild beauty exists nonetheless. (Images: Fig Tree growing mass of adventitious roots; succulents growing on sandstone cliffs; Jacaranda Tree in full purple blossom, row of unidentified trees in a park)

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One can’t walk around an urban park in Sydney without seeing the ubiquitous Australian Ibis. With its long curved beak and bald black head, it’s a quite different looking bird than what is common in the States. Interestingly enough, the Ibis wasn’t common in urban areas until a series of droughts in the 70’s and 80’s pushed the Ibis into the cities. Though a species native to Australia, its decline in its native habitat and rapid increase in urban areas has led to questions as to whether it’s an endangered species or a pest.



Another ubiquitous bird in the city is the Common Myna. Unlike the Ibis, the common myna is not native to Australia, and its status as a pest is unequivocal (it is recognized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as one of the top 100 invasive species). The urban environment, however, provides the ideal habitat for these birds. Adapted to life as a scavenger in woodland environments, the features of a city—the abundant buildings for nesting, open sidewalks for foraging, and plentiful food scraps—provides an ideal home.



Ferns, being one of the most ancient types of plants, are able to thrive in harsh environments—both natural and urban. They grow wherever a crack in infrastructure provides a small foothold and traps enough moisture to drink. Here these ferns find a home similar to a sandstone cliff in the seaside dock and decaying brick wall.



Posted on November 15, 2015, in Nature, Travel and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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