Biodiversity in Adelaide

photo-icon Davide Gaglio

Biodiversity is the variety of plant and animal 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 storms, droughts, climate change, disease or other adverse human impacts. Healthy ecosystems are generally high in biodiversity and show many interactions between species.

Adelaide biodiversity includes a rich variety of species of flora and fauna.

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, we 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.

Our approach

The City of Adelaide manages our biodiversity using the following principles:

  1. Protecting and enhancing habitats and (remnant) vegetation, that were dominant in pre-European times, is our highest priority.
  2. Connected populations have greater genetic diversity and are more resilient.

Remnant plants and revegetation

Remnant vegetation is managed using best-practice techniques to promote the health and expansion of local native species. Revegetation does have a role, especially where it assists in enhancing the survival and size of existing remnants, and for pre-European communities that have been fully cleared.


Larger populations of species are more likely to survive than smaller populations. This increases genetic diversity, reduces the risk of local extinction, and increases the ability to survive of the populations, species and ecosystems to cope with a changing climate.

For these reasons, we manage biodiversity at a landscape scale rather than at the scale of individual remnants. Managing the best-quality biodiversity areas with greenways to improve connectivity will facilitate larger, more genetically diverse and resilient populations.

Park lands revegetation

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.

At the City of Adelaide we have 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 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 - Common brushtail Possum

Common brushtail Possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) mainly eats leaves of eucalypts but also like flowers, shoots, fruits, and occasionally insects, bird eggs and chicks. His Latin name means " furry tailed little fox" due to his furry tail. They have a pointed face with a cute pink nose and long rounded ears. While they sleep during the day, at night they feed criss-crossing treetops. They are vocal animals, and they can be identified by their loud coughs, clicks, grunts and hisses.

They have adapted well to living in urban areas, suburban backyards. Possums are usually docile, however if feeling threatened possums will defend themselves just like any other animal. So, if you are lucky enough to see one on our Park Lands don’t get too close … possum teeth are sharp!

Image credit: Greg Schechter

Common brushtail possum image credit greg the busker
photo-icon Greg Scechter

If you’ve noticed the New Holland Honeyeater, Australian Magpies and Eastern Rosellas 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.

Our Bird Sensitive City Handbook is filled with information on what can be done to protect and improve conditions for small native birds in the Park Lands and encourage more of them to return from surrounding areas. The handbook was developed in collaboration with our partners Green Adelaide, Birds SA, City of Port Adelaide Enfield, Nature Conservation Society of South Australia and Bush For Life.

Find out more about the Birds in our city by downloading our Activity Booklet and A Bird Adventure booklet. To learn more about how we celebrate Biodiversity, take a moment to watch this video which recaps the 2021 Birds in the City Festival. 

Example - Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo

You have probably seen and heard flocks of Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos (Calyptorhynchus funereus) feeding in our Park Lands. Its specific name funereus relates to its dark plumage - as if dressed for a funeral - and it is easily identified by its yellow patch on the tail. Despite their recent decline due to habitat loss and disappearing food sources, Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos have been observed regularly visiting the Park Lands since 2001. They are important seed dispersers for some of our rare native trees (such as Hakea) but in the Park Lands, they have been able to feast on plentiful seed from the more abundant introduced Radiata Pine (Pinus radiata).

Image credit: Davide Gaglio

Yellow tailed black cockatoo 2 credit davide gaglio
photo-icon Davide Gaglio

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 can all be 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 riverbanks, hiding in natural crevices such as logs and rocks or waiting near streams and ponds 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 for the Eastern Water skink. Their favourite food are aquatic insects like mosquito larvae, as well as spiders, snails, and cockroaches, so they offer a great pest-controlling service to our urban areas. 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 reduce carp numbers and increase native aquatic vegetation that will support fish and other native aquatic 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. This native species is primarily found on muddy bottoms, often amongst vegetation. It preys upon small fish, tadpoles, and aquatic arthropods (e.g. insects, crustaceans) but it is also a prey of a number of waterbirds. This means they play a vital role in the food web – controlling populations of its prey and being prey itself.

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 (Park 16). This butterfly had not been observed on the Adelaide plains in over fifty years

The Chequered Copper has formed a clever relationship with the common black ant Iridomyrmex rufoniger, which protects the butterfly larvae (caterpillars) in their nest underground. Once the caterpillar is big enough, the ants carry it to the surface. The caterpillar feeds on Native Sorrel (Oxalis perennans) and while it moves around, the ants constantly touch and steer the caterpillar with their antennae and are rewarded for their efforts with a sweet nectar-like substance (honeydew) secreted from a gland towards the rear of the caterpillar's body. 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. Download more information from our Activity Booklet.

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 are trained in Conservation Land Management. They look after the quality of our key biodiversity areas and biodiversity projects

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

Image header credit: Davide Gaglio