When a Plant Becomes a Weed: The Natural and Social World of Native Trees in Urban Environments

Brendan Doody
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In this study we investigated the dispersal and regeneration of twelve species of bird-dispersed native trees from Riccarton Bush, the only remnant of native forest in the urban matrix of Christchurch, New Zealand, into surrounding residential gardens. Recognising that gardens are a hybrid of the social, cultural and natural, we adopted an interdisciplinary approach to understand:

1) the ecological, social and cultural dimensions that influence dispersal and regeneration of native trees from Riccarton Bush into residential gardens;

2) the potential role residential gardens could play in the Bush’s future.

Ecological and social data were collected at 90 randomly located residential gardens. For the ecological component, each garden was classified into habitat types according to vegetation size, substrate, canopy cover and ground cover. Any of the twelve interest species present in each habitat area were identified and counted in height classes. The social component consisted of observations of gardens, and interviews with residents about topics including their property, garden management, weeds and trees.

Our results emphasise the hybridity of residential gardens. First, the dispersal of trees from the Bush is largely dependent on birds, which are attracted to a property by the type and structure of vegetation present in the garden, the very nature of, which is created and continually shaped by people. People’s involvement in their gardens also provides not only opportunities for seedlings to establish but can determine their fate if they are subsequently ‘weeded’ out. Such management decisions are not reached in isolation, but within a myriad of social and cultural networks that reinforce old and create new practices and techniques, that invariably arise from the multitude of interactions with the plants themselves. Overall, our findings suggest discussions about the Bush’s future must begin with understanding people’s thoughts, ideas and interactions with the plants that constitute their gardens.

Keywords: Hybridity, Interdisciplinary, Urban Plant Ecology, Sociology, Residential Gardens, Urban Forest Fragment, Native Trees, Dispersal and Regeneration
Stream: Sociology and Geography, Natural, Environmental and Health Sciences
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.

Brendan Doody

masters student, Bio-Protection and Ecology Division, Lincoln University
Canterbury, New Zealand

Bachelor Recreation Management (Parks) from Lincoln University, Canterbury, New Zealand (2001-2003); Recipient of three awards during bachelor: Alan Taylor Prize 2001, The McEwings Mountain Sports Macpac Wilderness Equipment Prize in Recreation Management 2001 and John Taylor Prize 2002; Environment, Society and Design Summer Research Scholarship topic: “Rights of public access to the foreshore: a study of public awareness and opinions” Nov 2003 – Mar 2004 (Presentation of my research in Aug 2004 at the New Zealand Recreation Association Conference). Feb 2004 commenced M Appl Sc in Ecology and Conservation; Tutor in Social Science Group from Feb 2004; Commenced interdisciplinary (combining plant ecology and social science) Masters thesis in Oct 2004 on “The conservation implications of the dispersal and regeneration of indigenous trees in an urban environment” (Presentation of my research in Aug 2005 at the New Zealand Ecological Society Conference; received award for best presentation by an Honours of Masters student at the conference); Recipient of both Lincoln University Postgraduate Scholarship and Freemason’s Postgraduate Scholarship in 2005; I'm hoping to continue conducting interdisciplinary research at the doctorate level; Other interests include rugby, cricket, running, hiking and listening to music.

Ref: I06P0161