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Biodiversity in Adelaide

What is Biodiversity?

Biodiversity represents the variety of life in a place, big and small, from the bacteria in your stomach that helps you digest your food, to the plants and animals that live in and around your home, street, neighbourhood and city. This variety of life makes our environment resilient and provides us with clean air, water and a stable environment in which to live.

Why is it Important?

The many species in an ecosystem act like the spokes of a bicycle wheel, providing a strong frame for the system to resist bumps and disturbances in the environment, such as natural disasters or climate change. Therefore, healthy ecosystems are generally high in biodiversity and exhibit many interactions between species.

We aim to conserve biodiversity so that our city stays a healthy, resilient place in which plants, animals and people can live.

A Diverse History

When the Kaurna people were the main stewards of the land, they skillfully managed the landscape through the careful use of fire. During this time, greater Adelaide was one of the most biodiversity-rich areas in South Australia. At least four unique ecosystems could be found across the land, which the City of Adelaide is now restoring for conservation and public enjoyment.

After European colonisation, people in Adelaide have witnessed and contributed to the decline of biodiversity in our forests and waterways through unsuitable land management and habitat clearing. We now actively manage and protect our biodiversity against Threats it faces, informed by research and community knowledge. We also commit to seeking the traditional land practices of the Kaurna people to inform management of our biodiversity.

Biodiversity and Our Health

Did you know? People living in ‘green’ cities experience better mental health and productivity, as well as reduced rates of stress and crime. The importance of biodiversity for our physical and emotional wellbeing is well recognised, so we encourage visitors to our biodiversity sites and Nature Play areas.

Why all the Latin italicised text?

Latin text in parentheses after the common name of a species is its scientific name. For example, the Chequered Copper Butterfly’s scientific name is Lucia limbaria.

Some species have many common names, so the scientific name tells us exactly which species we are talking about.

Our Plan

The Integrated Biodiversity Management Plan 2018 - 2023 outlines how we are going to manage and improve biodiversity over the next five years. Click here to view the plan (PDF, 27 pages).

Park Biodiversity

You might be surprised to hear that our Park Lands still 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.

You can find out about some of the native animals and plants living in the Park Lands below.

Native Animals

Many native animals still exist in our Park Lands and waterways. From Flying Foxes to rare butterflies, click on the drop-down boxes below to find about just a few of the amazing animals that still call the City of Adelaide home.

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Indigenous Plants

By weight, plants are the most abundant form of life on earth. They are found in nearly every ecosystem, they act as habitat for wildlife, provide 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 in the City of Adelaide, and they can be found in four unique ecosystems. For a list of plants that you could include in your backyard, visit the Backyard Biology section of this website.

Some notable species from different plant families found in the city region can be found below:

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(Images and links courtesy of SA Seed Bank).

Urban Biodiversity

Green pillars covered in vegetation at the front of the City of Adelaide Colonel Light Centre on Pirie StHave you seen butterflies, bees and falcons flying around the city? Biodiversity isn’t just limited to the Park Lands. Nature is adaptable and can thrive in urban areas, even in the most unlikely of places.

If you keep a look out you might see Peregrine Falcons nesting on high-rise window ledges, butterflies and other insects floating around urban green walls and even honeybees buzzing from hives on the roofs of some city buildings.

Urban biodiversity improves human health and productivity. The City of Adelaide encourages urban greening and native biodiversity projects amongst our built environment, where appropriate.

Meet Our Biodiversity Team

Biodiversity Team working in the native plant nursery.

Our on-ground Biodiversity Team are a group of passionate and knowledgeable land managers who look after the quality of our Key Biodiversity Areas and biodiversity Projects. The team is made up by the Lead-hand, three full-time staff and three apprentices.

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. Other work can include maintaining trails in biodiversity areas and seed collection for later propagation and planting.

Photo: Members of the Biodiversity Team working in the native plant nursery.

Seed Provenance

Seed provenance involves keeping track of where seed is collected so that future planting projects can use appropriate seedlings. This is important for maintaining the genetic information of plants that have adapted to the local area, which may also be useful for developing plant populations that are adapted to our changing climate.


Grey-headed Flying Fox flying low over Karrawirra Pari / River TorrensWarm-blood, backbone, sweat glands and hairy. We’re talking about mammals!

Did you know? We 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. We are also hosting the Grey-headed Flying Fox, a permanent visitor from the eastern states.

A few native bat species have adapted relatively well to our urban environment, sometimes by using human structures such as water pipes, roof spaces and wall cavities as their roost during the day. They do prefer natural shelter, however, which includes tree hollows, caves, rock crevices or loose bark.

Have your ornamental plants been munched during the night? One reason why we find possums in the city is because they have been able to switch between their natural diet of Eucalyptus leaves, buds and flowers to ornamental plants found on the street and in your own backyard. The possum species you may come across are the Common Brushtail Possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) and the Common Ringtail Possum (Pseudocheirus peregrinus).

You may see the native Water-rat (Hydromys chrysogaster) deftly moving through the waters of Karrawirra Pari (Kaurna name for River Torrens) but don’t worry, they are a natural part of this ecosystem and like to keep their distance. Have a look for them – they are frequently seen in the river between the Zoo and Hackney Road and are easily recognized by their large size and long, thick, white-tipped tail.

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 follow these directions.

Photo: Grey Headed Flying Fox (Pterpopus poliocephalus) cooling down on Karrawirra Pari / River Torrens. Credit: Thomas J Hunt.


Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo flying from Radiata Pine perch with blurred backgroundIf you have noticed the Noisy Miners, Australian Magpies and Little Corellas around the city, you might be surprised that 114 different bird species have previously called Adelaide home. This doesn’t even include another 39 vagrants (animals that briefly visit from other areas).

The diversity and numbers of birds in the Adelaide Park Lands has declined significantly since European land management replaced Kaurna stewardship. The main cause of these declines has been the removal of native undergrowth, which provides habitat and food for these birds.

In recent years, we have made significant efforts to protect and revegetate areas of native vegetation, which will provide food and habitat for our birds to thrive.

Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo

Have you heard this audible avian? Known for their characteristic screech and brightly-coloured tails, Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos (Calyptorhynchus funereus) have been observed regularly in the Park Lands since 2001. Habitat loss and disappearing food sources have led to big declines in the abundance of this species. 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) continue to disappear. 

Photo: Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus funereus). Credit: Thomas J Hunt.

Reptiles and Amphibians

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 animals are important for keeping mosquitos and other insects in check and can also be great indicators that our ecosystems are healthy.

In maintaining the health of Key Biodiversity Areas, putting native plants back in cleared sites 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.

Eastern Water Skink

Have you seen this rare lizard surviving well 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 to come past. They can be as long as a 30 cm ruler and are easily recognized by a thin white stripe and small black spots running down the side of their body from their eye to their tail.

Restoring Tulya Wardli to a more natural condition proved worthwhile because this area now provides excellent habitat and food for the Eastern Water Skink. Walk the Bunyip Trail in Tulya Wardli to see if you can spot one of these magnificent lizards.

Photo: Eastern Water Skink (Eulamprus quoyii). Credit: Victoria McCarron.


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

Two of these species are native to the River Torrens, the Flathead Gudgeon (Philypnodon grandiceps) and Western Bluespot Goby (Pseudogobius olorum). Three more species are native to the Murray River, and the final three species are exotic (not from Australia).

We are 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.

Photo: Flathead Gudgeon (Philypnodon grandiceps) is one of two local native fish species in Karrawirra Pari / River Torrens. Credit: Nick Volpe.


Chequered Copper Butterfly with wings open on long grass in sunInsects are the most biodiverse of any living group, and make up around half of the roughly 12 million species on earth! They are an essential part of nearly every ecosystem and often fulfill important roles such as plant pollinators or waste decomposers.

The city area contains a diversity of ants, bees, beetles, butterflies and spiders. You can find out about a few of them below.

Chequered Copper Butterfly

A butterfly that spends its teenage years living with ants; who would have thought?

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, its pheromones have changed, so the ants carry it to the surface, and its scales (edible for the ants) are scraped off in the process. 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 Pakapakanthi has been preserved as a Key Biodiversity Area, which is managed by our Biodiversity Team.

Photo: Chequered Copper Butterfly (Lucia limbaria).

Native Bees

Native Halictid bee on purple flowerDid you know that there are over 300 species of native bees in Adelaide and the Mt Lofty Ranges? Native bees are extremely important for pollinating flowering plants, and in some cases are even better pollinators than their European honeybee cousins. Most species of native bee are also stingless, live by themselves and aren’t aggressive, making them beautiful and useful little insects to have in your backyard.

Our Native Bee BnB project is aimed at providing habitat to support a diversity of native pollinators, including Adelaide’s native bee populations. We are also creating awareness in the community to look after our native bees. You can easily get involved by visiting one of our three bee hotels or by making your own bee-friendly garden.

Photo: Halictid bee: Lipotriches (Austronomia) australica. Credit: Jeremy Gramp.

Lilies and corms (bulb-like structure):


Other notable plants:

Kidney Weed on ground

Kidney-weed (Dichondra repens)
Native Sorrell (Oxalis perennans)




Photo: Kidney Weed (Dichondra repens).

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