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Our research is investigating the importance of green spaces, natural plant communities and wildlife as components of urban design. Biodiversity in cities is thought to be important for human well-being, provision of ecosystem services (e.g. water purification, stormwater retention), and developing a sense of place and belonging.

As well, the level of biodiversity present in an urban subdivision may influence the potential capital value of real estate. Our research is clarifying the values provided by biodiversity to urban systems, determining how urban subdivisions impact on residual plants and animals, and developing novel techniques for integrating nature into city dwellers' everyday experiences.

Effects of land use on freshwater ecosystems - freshwater invertebrates

The biology of streams, rivers and lakes can be strongly affected by land or water use.

This research area includes projects in which detailed understanding of freshwater invertebrate taxa and habitats inform environmental impact assessments and community education programmes. We survey freshwater invertebrates in programmes designed to assess the state of stream and river habitats in New Zealand, Brunei and Papua New Guinea.

The Resource Management Act requires an assessment of environmental effects as part of resource consent applications for activities that could significantly modify stream habitats (including stream realignment, piping, damming or creating new urban stormwater discharges). We use invertebrate species composition and abundance, with information about stream ecology, as indicators of environmental health, land use impact, and the performance of stormwater management systems.


Blakely TJ, Harding JS, Clews E, Winterbourn MJ, [photographs by Stephen Moore] 2010. An illustrated guide to the freshwater macroinvertebrates of Singapore. Christchurch, School of Biological Sciences, University of Canterbury. 74 p.

Collier KJ, Moore SC 2010. Box 9.2 Alien macroinvertebrates. In: Collier KJ, Hamilton DP, Vant WN, Howard-Williams C ed. The waters of Waikato : ecology of New Zealand's longest river. [Hamilton], Environment Waikato and the Centre for Biodiversity and Ecology Research (The University of Waikato). Pp. 177.

Rowe DK, Parkyn S, Quinn J, Collier K, Hatton C, Joy MK, Maxted J, Moore S 2009. A Rapid Method to Score Stream Reaches Based on the Overall Performance of Their Main Ecological Functions. Environmental management 43(6): 1287-1300. ISI:000267030200026.

Moore S 2006. Creatures of the streams and pools. In: Harvey B, Harvey T ed. Waitakere ranges: ranges of inspiration: nature history culture. Waitakere City, Waitakere Ranges Protection Society. Pp. 160-165.

Urban ecology & biodiversity integration

Greening of cities is a vital ingredient in providing 'nature experience' to much of New Zealand's populace. This experience, in turn, will lead to better public decision-making about the environment.

Greater knowledge and appreciation of urban natural history among the citizenry must come from a combination of scientific analysis of the environment (catching up on 100 years of vegetation survey work in wild New Zealand); presenting this information in a digestible manner; and personal observation and experience of ecological patterns and processes in gardens and reserves.

Our research develops innovative approaches to integrating indigenous nature and biodiversity into the daily lives of urban dwellers - the bulk of the population. Research projects include:

  • analyses of ecological patterns and processes in gardens and reserves
  • an online natural-history recording system characterising urban vegetation
  • trials incorporating native plants in urban wastelands, greenroof plantings, and greenfield developments
  • development and demonstration of design and construction techniques for biodiverse parks, gardens, subdivisions, and greenroofs.


Meurk C 2012. [Book review] Old growth urban forests. New Zealand Ecological Society newsletter 140: 8.

Ignatieva M, Stewart GH, Meurk C 2011. Planning and design of ecological networks in urban areas. Landscape and ecological engineering 7(1): 17-25. WOS:000286835800003.

Meurk C 2011. Plant stories of the Port Hills - a pakeha plantsman's perspective. In: Forster G ed. Storyscapes : regeneration of the Port and Banks Peninsula Hills. Christchurch, Caxton Press. Pp. 37.

Meurk CD, Stewart G 2011. A greenprint for re-building a biodiverse garden city: post 2010/2011 earthquake. Proceedings: 25th International Congress for Conservation Biology (ICCB): "Engaging Society in Conservation", Auckland, 5-9 December 2011. Pp. 93.

Meurk CD 2011. Recombinant ecology of urban areas: characterisation, context and creativity. 17 17 In: Douglas I, Goode D, Houck M, Wang R ed. The Routledge handbook of urban ecology. London, Routledge. Pp. 198-220.

Stewart G, Meurk CD 2011. Citizen involvement in urban biodiversity conservation - opportunities and obstacles in New Zealand. Proceedings: 25th International Congress for Conservation Biology (ICCB): "Engaging Society in Conservation", Auckland, 5-9 December 2011. Pp. 93.

Doody BJ, Sullivan JJ, Meurk CD, Stewart GH, Perkins HC 2010. Urban realities: the contribution of residential gardens to the conservation of urban forest remnants. Biodiversity and conservation 19(5): 1385-1400. ISI:000276485300014.

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