Backyard Biodiversity

One home, one year, one thousand species

Bronwen Scott

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Pied Butcherbird — a black and white bird with a grey hooked beak and a piercing stare — looking down the camera lens. It’s raining heavily and the bird’s head is shiny with rain.
Pied Butcherbird in Tropical Cyclone Jasper, Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland. © Bronwen Scott

A taxonomist, an ecologist and a mathematician walked into a garden…and spent their lockdown documenting every species of animal, plant and fungus they could find around their home. Andrew Rogers, Matthew Holden and Russell Yong expected to encounter perhaps as many as 300 species on the 400-square metre block in Brisbane, southeast Queensland. A year later, long after the end of lockdown, the final tally was almost four times that number. When they finished counting, they had recorded 1,150 species in their house and backyard.

That total was made up of 103 plants, 13 fungi and a whopping 1,034 animals — mostly native invertebrates. This hyperlocal BioBlitz turned up an amazing diversity of insects. More than 40% of the catalogued species were moths and butterflies (436 spp), with flies and beetles coming in a long way behind at 109 and 95 species respectively. There were dozens of other insects and arachnids, plus 56 birds, 11 mammals and eight reptiles.

Biodiversity is more than the Amazon rainforest and African savanna. It is the spiders in the uncut grass, the mice in the shed, the moss drawing green lines around paving stones. It is the ants in the lawn, the silverfish in the cupboard, and the splashes of the lichen on the roof. Biodiversity is everywhere and is everything.

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Bronwen Scott

Zoologist, writer, artist, museum fan, enjoying life in the tropical rainforest of Far North Queensland. She/her. Website: bronwenscott.com