Perth's bushland holds a wide range of values which contribute strongly to our 'sense of place. Despite constant threats to that which remains, Perth people and visitors still have access to a range of precious localities that remind us of what was once a rich and varied mosaic of magnificent trees, dense understory and extensive sedges, heath and pristine wetlands. To visit these sites is to be again grounded in what sustains the spirit.
Perth's natural environment defines the city's special character. Urban bushland remnants can fulfil the need people living in the city may feel for some space and solitude in a tranquil natural setting. Conventional urban parks and gardens are often cluttered with additional recreation facilities, car parks, kiosks, barbecues, public toilets, ornamental ponds, waterfalls, fountains, walls, borders, contours, monuments, moulded forms, sculptures and anything else for which the local council was unable to find a home. Lawn and garden areas are generally highly artificial in terms of form and content. They often lack any aesthetic coherence - let alone any ecological coherence.
Such "facilities" offer little respite from conceptions of "work" and the obsessive interference with nature which so typifies our western culture. Remnant bushland areas are a celebration of natural forms and shapes and colours and sounds. The living communities are blended and interwoven through long associations with each other and with the physical environment. For most people, the resultant ambience is far more psychologically relaxing and pleasing than that generally produced by the 'improving on nature' attitude which has so dominated our open space utilisation in urban areas.
Bushland provides important visual relief from built-up areas and a link with the original landscape. The beauty of the bushland contributes to the quality of life in urban communities. Bushland is an important historical and social record. Many remnant bushland areas in and around Perth have significance to both Aboriginal and European cultures. Small bushland remnants can provide some particularly valuable additional feeding opportunities and nesting sites for those native birds that have, to some degree, adapted to living in suburban parks and gardens.
Even quite small bushland remnants increase the amount of bird life found in the urban areas surrounding them. Bushland areas can function as nurseries for native birds in the wider urban environment. Most city residents appreciate having a variety of native birds regularly visiting their gardens. Many new housing developments are so devoid of trees and so remote from any remnant indigenous vegetation that they have virtually no bird life left for the residents to enjoy.
Bushland is used for research and fieldwork by primary and secondary schools, and tertiary institutions. The community has a right to learn about, care about and enjoy our floral heritage. Community involvement and education are conducive to a caring and enjoyment. Our children have the same rights. All children should have the right of access to bushland within walking distance of home and school for both appreciation and the opportunity to learn about bushland values. Far too many of our children are now alienated from Perth's natural environment.
Urban bushland remnants are a living reminder of an urban locality's original, undeveloped state and therefore assume some European cultural heritage value - particularly in longer-established areas of the city. Urban bushland areas are beneficial with regard to groundwater's purity in the sense that they are able to take up some of the excess nutrients the groundwater may contain while contributing very little to its nutrient load. Groundwater lying beneath "developed" urban areas is extremely susceptible to contamination.
Bushland remnants can function as environmental indicators. If the ecosystems of bushland remnants can be maintained in healthy condition it is a significant indication that the health of the local, or regional, environment is similarly sound. Urban bushland is fragile and sensitive to environmental disturbance and hence may reveal problems with changing groundwater levels, for example, before effects are noticed elsewhere.
Bushland is a key recreational amenity. It is used for bushwalking, photography, nature study... and many other leisure pursuits.
The scientific study of Western Australia's flora and fauna has only scratched the surface. When bushland is cleared, nobody really knows exactly what is being lost. Flora and fauna surveys are often poorly executed and the complex questions of ecological relationships are often ignored because the scientific studies thereof have simply never been undertaken. Environmental Review documents are often very misleading in their claims to having established that the "environmental significance" of specific areas is not sufficient to warrant their protection.
The "web of life" at the invertebrate level and at the microscopic level is very poorly known. The interaction between these levels and macroflora is, again, very poorly known. Crude flora and fauna surveys do not reveal the true complexity and environmental significance of bushland remnants around Perth, and they should not be used to facilitate approval for clearing. Until our scientific knowledge of urban bushland ecosystems has improved dramatically, all bushland clearing in the metropolitan area should be banned.
The conservation of remnant bushland not only conserves flora and fauna but often also keeps intact some of the natural landforms of an area. All too often, urban development involves major modification of the topography and landforms. Sites to be developed are generally cleared totally and are then levelled or otherwise modified with heavy earth moving machines. Sites are often built up with fill brought from elsewhere, or have their "excess" native soil taken away. In this way, not only is the original topography greatly altered but the native soils as well. Urban bushland remnants, then, help conserve natural landscape features which are a diminishing part of the region's heritage.
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