Biodiversity in Adelaide

photo-icon Thomas J. Hunt

Adelaide contains a rich variety of plants, animals and biodiverse life.

Biodiversity is the variety of life in a place that makes it resilient and allows it to provide clean air, water and a stable setting in which we can live, work and play.

The interactions of many species in an ecosystem form a strong ‘frame’ that can resist bumps and disturbances in the environment, such as natural disasters, climate change or other adverse human impacts. Healthy ecosystems are generally high in biodiversity and show many interactions between species.

Adelaide’s biodiverse history

When the Kaurna people were the sole inhabitants of the Adelaide Plains on which Adelaide lies, the area was one of the most biodiversity-rich areas in South Australia. At least four unique ecosystems could be found across the landscape.

Since European colonisation, successive generations have witnessed and contributed to the decline of biodiversity in our forests and waterways through what has now shown to be unsuitable land management and habitat clearing.

A plan for the future

The City of Adelaide strives to conserve and restore local biodiversity so that our city stays a healthy, resilient place in which plants and animals flourish, and you can enjoy your life.

It has developed the Integrated Biodiversity Management Plan 2018 – 2023, which outlines how we are going to manage and improve biodiversity.

Park biodiversity

Our Park Lands contain interesting and important plants, animals, fungi and bacteria. They all have their place and contribute to keeping our city healthy and a nice place to visit.

We’ve selected a few precious species and explain more about them below:

Warm-blood, backbone, sweat glands and hairy. We’re talking about mammals!

We are lucky to still have 10 native mammal species of the 33 that once lived here, despite the threats they face to survive. These species include seven bats, two possums and one rodent. The Park Lands are now home to the Grey-headed Flying Fox, a permanent visitor from the eastern states.

Example - Grey-headed Flying Fox

Habitat loss and drought in their home states of QLD and NSW encouraged the Grey-headed Flying Fox (Pteropus poliocephalus) to set up a permanent colony in the Adelaide Park Lands in 2010. In summer, you might see them skimming the surface of the Torrens for a drink and to cool off. If you come across a Flying Fox on the ground, do not touch it. Instead, please contact Fauna Rescue 24-hour helpline on 08 8486 1139.

photo-icon Thomas J. Hunt

If you’ve noticed the Noisy Miners, Australian Magpies and Little Corellas around the city, you might be surprised that they are just some of the 114 different bird species that have previously called Adelaide home.

The diversity and numbers of birds in the Adelaide Park Lands has declined significantly since European settlement, mainly caused by the removal of native undergrowth, which provides habitat and food for the birds.

In recent years, the City of Adelaide has made significant efforts to protect and revegetate areas of native vegetation, which will provide food and habitat for the birds to thrive.

Example - Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo

You’ve probably heard this audible avian. Known for their characteristic screech and brightly-coloured tails, Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos (Calyptorhynchus funereus) have been observed regularly visiting the Park Lands since 2001. Habitat loss and disappearing food sources have led to a big decline in numbers. In the Park Lands, they have been able to feast on plentiful seed from introduced Radiata Pine (Pinus radiata), as their native seed food source, (such as Hakea) continues to disappear.

Yellow tailed black cockatoo credit thomas j hunt

You’ll most likely see them on a warm day, sunning themselves before disappearing at the first sign of danger. Dragon lizards, frogs, geckos, skinks, snakes and tortoises have all been found in and around the city.

These critters are important for keeping mosquitos and other insects in check and can also be great indicators that our ecosystems are healthy. By maintaining the health of key biodiversity areas, planting native plants and improving water quality in our creeks, we greatly improve access to habitat and food for the reptiles and frogs that live here in the city.

Example - Eastern Water skink

Have you seen this rare lizard in the city? The Eastern Water skink (Eulamprus quoyii) likes to spend time on river banks, hiding in natural crevices or waiting on river rocks for its next meal. They can be up to 30 cm long and are easily recognised by a thin white stripe and small black spots running down the side of their body from their eye to their tail.

Take a walk along the Bunyip Trail in Bonython Park/Tulya Wardli. The Council has restored the area and it now provides excellent habitat and food for the Eastern Water skink. See if you can spot one!

Eastern Water Skink Victoria McCarron
photo-icon Victoria McCarron

On a sunny day, you might see a silvery glint below the surface of River Torrens/Karrawirra Pari. It might surprise you, but there are at least eight different fish species that call this river home.

Council is working to increase native aquatic vegetation in River Torrens / Karrawirra Pari that will support fish and other native waterborne animals that live here, including tortoises, yabbies and shrimp.

Example – Flathead gudgeon

The Flathead gudgeon (Philypnodon grandiceps) has a broad flattened head, a large mouth reaching to below the rear half of the eye, and wide gill openings. It and the Western Bluespot Goby (Pseudogobius olorum) are both native to the river.

Flathead gudgeon fish

Insects are the most biodiverse of any living group, making up around half of the roughly 12 million species on earth! They are an essential part of nearly every ecosystem and often fulfil important roles such as plant pollinators or waste decomposers.

The city area contains a diversity of ants, bees, beetles, butterflies and spiders.

Example - Chequered Copper Butterfly

In 2011 the rare Chequered Copper Butterfly (Lucia limbaria) was discovered in Victoria Park /Pakapakanthi. This butterfly had not been observed on the Adelaide plains in over fifty years.

The Chequered Copper has formed a clever relationship with the ant species Iridomyrmex rufoniger, which protects the butterfly larva in their nest underground. Once the larva has metamorphosed into a caterpillar, the ants carry it to the surface. The caterpillar survives on Native Sorrel or Creeping Yellow Oxalis (Oxalis perennans). The Chequered Copper Butterfly needs this ant and plant to survive.

We are working together with Butterfly Conservation SA to protect the Chequered Copper Butterfly. Its location in Victoria Park/Pakapakanthi has been preserved as a Key Biodiversity Area, which is managed by our Biodiversity Team.

Chequered Copper Butterfly

By weight, plants are the most abundant form of life on earth. They are found in nearly every ecosystem, acting as habitat for wildlife, providing food for many other species and turn light from the sun into energy. In short, plants are astounding!

We are lucky to have over 180 indigenous plant species remaining across the city of Adelaide, and they can be found in four unique ecosystems, all preserved by the City of Adelaide.

For more information about the different plant species of the area, can be found on the Natural Resources website.

Meet our biodiversity team

The City of Adelaide’s biodiversity team is a group of passionate and knowledgeable land managers who look after the quality of our key biodiversity areas and biodiversity projects

The team’s responsibilities include planting locally-indigenous plants, targeted weeding, which encourages native plants to regenerate and monitoring the ongoing condition of biodiversity areas.