Caring For Our Plants and Animals

biodiversity is the variety of life.
Should we find out what lives in Canberra?

Click the links below to discover more!

Image: Grasslands, Photo: Mark Jekabson

What is biodiversity?

Biodiversity is the variety of plant and animal life in an environment. Biodiversity includes many different types of plants and animals, as well as the types of ecosystems such as forests, grasslands and rivers. Biodiversity is important because living things all interact and need each other to survive.

All living things

There are many living things on our Earth. Some examples are mammals (including people!), fish, insects, birds, plants, bacteria and other life.

Every one of these living things is important. They play different roles in keeping the world healthy. For example, plants provide the oxygen we breath, are food for animals, keep the soil healthy and prevent soil erosion.

Everything in our world is connected, and each plant and animal is an essential part of our natural ecosystems – that’s why we need to protect biodiversity. The loss of biodiversity can damage the health of natural environments.

Healthy biodiversity is also vital to human health. biodiversity gives us many benefits including clean air and water, foods and fibres, pollination, control of pests, carbon storage, and nutrient cycling.

BiodIvErsity in the ACT

The ACT is home to 2,751 native animal species and 2,088 native plant species. But there are also many invasive species that affect native biodiversity and ecosystems in the ACT, including 64 invasive animal species and 592 invasive plant species.

Did you know?

Canberra and surrounds have the richest bird life of any Australian capital city. There are over 200 species here. Birds come in many different sizes and colours, from the large Emu, to the tiny Weebill.

There are also animal species that move through the ACT as they migrate from different areas of Australia and across the world for breeding or feeding.

Most fly from as far away as northern Siberia, China and Japan to spend their summer non-breeding season in Australia.

These species only live in the ACT for a short time each year. This includes around 27 migratory bird species, with 13 being regular visitors.

Species include Latham’s Snipe, Rufous Fantail, Satin Flycatcher, and the White-throated Needletail.

Image: Latham’s Snipe – Jerrabomberra Wetlands, Photo: Raw Shorty

Image: Box Gum Grassy Woodlands by Mark Jekabsons

Endangered species in the ACT

Some of the ACT’s species are endangered need our help. In 2019 there were:

  • 7 critically endangered species – a species that is facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild.
  • 18 endangered species – species that is facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild.
  • 26 vulnerable – a species that is facing a high risk of extinction in the wild.
  • 3 endangered environments: Natural Temperate Grassland, Yellow Box/Red Gum Grassy Woodland, and High Country Bogs and Associated Fens.


Meet some of Canberra’s threatened species.

The regent honeyeater (Anthochaera phrygia) is critically endangered.

The superb parrot (Polytelis swainsonii) is vulnerable.

The Northern Corroboree Frog (Pseudophryne pengilleyi) is critically endangered.

The Canberra spider orchid (Caledenia actensis) is critically endangered.

The grassland earless dragon (Tympanocryptis pinguicolla) is endangered.

The murray river (Euastacus armatus) crayfish is vulnerable.

Images: Regent honeyeater and Superb parrot by Ryan Colley, Corroboree Frog by Murray Evans, Grassland earless dragon and Crayfish by Mark Jekabsons


Threats to biodiversity can occur slowly, such as climate change, or fast, such as a bushfires and land clearing.

The threats to the ACT’s plants and animals are much the same as those facing species across the world. They include:

  • Climate change, especially higher temperatures, more heatwaves and reduced rainfall.
  • Increased number of bushfires.
  • The loss of habitat from the clearing of trees and other vegetation to make way for homes and farms, and from severe bushfires.
  • Non-native, or invasive plants and animals including foxes, rabbits, deer, pigs, uncontrolled cats, and species such as carp in our rivers.
  • Overabundant (too many) native species such as kangaroos, which eat the plants that other species need to survive.
  • Not enough water for rivers and wetlands.
  • Poor water quality from pollutants and the use of toxic chemicals. Poor water quality can lead to the loss of plants and animals reducing biodiversity.

What can we all do to help our plants and animals?

  • Put your rubbish in bins so that native species don’t eat plastic and it doesn’t end up in rivers.
  • Plant more native species in your garden or at a local reserve through a community tree-planting program – see become a volunteer for more information. 
  • Do not take firewood from conservation reserves. These are places where the land is kept natural to care for nature and provide a place for plants to grow and animals to live. Trees, including dead ones and fallen branches, all provide important habitat and are protected.
  • When you travel interstate or come back from overseas, make sure that you don’t bring plant or animal material back to Canberra.
  • Put a bell on your cat and follow the cat laws; keep your cat indoors as much as possible, or have an outdoor cage.
  • Protect more areas for plants and animals, so our native wildlife has a safe place to live.
  • Protect older trees with hollows for animals.
  • Plant more native vegetation to provide new habitat and wildlife corridors that allow species to move from one place to another. 
  • Protect grasslands and woodlands from being cleared. 
  • Control the numbers of invasive and overabundant native species. 
  • Talk to others about how important it is to look after our plants and animals.
  • Put out water for wildlife when there is a drought, or the weather is very hot.
Image: Birds at birdbath, Photo: Raw Shorty


A hands-on way to help biodiversity is to join a local volunteer community group that helps animals and plants.

Note that most volunteering opportunities in the ACT will require you to be accompanied by someone over the age of 18.

Here are some to get you started:


Become a citizen scientist! 

Scientists have a lot of work to do, and sometimes need help monitoring where plants and animals are and how many of them exist. You can help them out by getting outside and using these apps and websites:

  • Complete a Backyard Birdcount.
  • Look for frogs in your local waterways and ponds using the Frog ID app.
  • Take photos of plants and animals you see and upload them to Canberra Nature Map so an expert can identify the species for you.



Bees are important as they help support biodiversity by pollinating plants and allowing them to grow. About a third of Australia’s food production relies on bees. You can choose plants for your garden that are good for bees, such as Grevillea and Hakea species.

You can also plant flowers in your lawn to help bees – and reduce the area of lawn to mow, too.

Plants such as clover, dandelion, thyme and daisies (available at local nurseries) require little upkeep and watering, making them perfect for Australia’s dry Climate.

When mowing the lawn, don’t use the grass catcher – allow the grass clippings to fall back onto the lawn, as this helps to fertilise it.

This means the grass can grow deeper, stronger roots and the soil also becomes healthier.

A green investigation

How connected (or not connected) are the green spaces around you?

This activity demonstrates how urban development can break up natural habitats. Changes to land use can impact on biodiversity as many species cannot move to other areas to find new places to live, food to eat, or opportunities to breed.

Look up your home address on Google maps, then zoom out so that you can see a few suburbs. Think about the following questions:

  1. How much green space do you see in your immediate neighbourhood?
  2. Can you trace your finger over the screen from green space to green space without lifting your finger?
  3. Does the size of the green spaces change?
  4. Are there green spaces near water (rivers, creeks, wetlands, lakes)?
  5. Are there roads that break up green spaces?
  6. Can you see areas that could be improved by creating new greenspace and wildlife habitat?

Considering these questions can help you learn how much (or how little) green space we have around us. Large patches are better than small ones, and connected green spaces are better than divided ones.

Image: Google Maps satellite view

Canberra has quite a lot of green space, but sometimes it is not connected well enough for species to move about. Creating new habitat to connect isolated areas can help species move between patches of land. If species are able to stay connected, biodiversity will be greater. When roads run through conservation areas, animals can’t get across the road, or they may be hit by cars while trying. Constructing overhead bridges or underground tunnels can help animals to move safely.


This activity demonstrates how urban development can break up natural habitats. Changes to land use can impact on biodiversity as many species cannot move to other areas to find new places to live, food to eat, or opportunities to breed.

Seed bombs are like bath bombs – but for your garden! They are a great way to make gardening fun and look after the land. Seed bombs can be especially helpful in areas where the land has been eroded and damaged. Normal seeding methods involve scattering seeds on the topsoil. But this leaves seeds vulnerable to being baked by hot sun, washed away by heavy rains, blown away by the wind, or eaten by animals and insects. Seed balls protect seeds from many of these threats and can help plants thrive.

What do I need?

  • 2 parts potting soil
  • 5 parts clay mix
  • water to moisten the mixture
  • 1-2 parts native seeds (your local nursery can tell you what seeds are the best to plant in your area)
  • large tray or a cardboard box

What do I do?

Mix the soil, clay and some water. Add the water slowly, as you don’t want your mixture to be too wet and gluggy; it should be just moist enough to stick together.

Add the seeds and knead them through the mixture until well mixed.

Take a small amount of your seed-dirt mixture and roll it in the palm of your hand to create a ball. If the ball doesn’t stick together and falls apart, add a little more water. Be gentle when you roll the balls: you want them to stick together but you don’t want to compact the soil too much. The ball needs to break apart when it gets wet in the garden.

Place your rolled balls onto the large tray or into a cardboard box. Store them in a dry, cool, shady place for a day or so.

Scatter your seed bombs around the garden where you want native plants to grow.

There is no need to water them or bury them, just let the earth do its thing!

Tip: You could organise to do this with a Landcare group and scatter seed bombs at a local reserve.

Remember that most volunteering opportunities in the ACT will require you to be accompanied by someone over the age of 18.

Match me to my home

This activity improves our general knowledge about our threatened species and their habitat. See if you can match the endangered species to their habitat. Hint, if you don’t know the answer, you can search online! Once you think you know the answer, click on the card to see if you are right.

Flowering trees and woodlands

Alpine/Mountain bogs and fens

Woodlands and open forest

Rocky landscapes



Images: Swift parrot by Ryan Colley, Corroboree Frog by Murray Evans, Grassland earless dragon by Mark Jekabsons


This activity improves our knowledge of what we can do to help our native plants and animals.

What do I need?

Click here to download and print out a help biodiversity bookmark, or make your own.

In each bubble, write something you can do every day to help biodiversity on our planet!

Spot the invasive species

This activity increases knowledge on invasive species and their impacts on our environment. Look at the picture pairs below. One is an important native species in the ACT, and the other is an invasive species that is threatening the native species. Choose the one you think is the invasive species, then click on the card over to reveal the answer. When you turn over the invasive species picture there is some information about why they are a problem in the ACT.

Native species: Smoky mouse

Invasive species: House mouse

These mice can breed often and can invade houses in large numbers.

Invasive species: African lovegrass

This invasive grass species is threatening the survival of Grassland Earless Dragons. The grass grows so thickly that it stops the dragons from moving between their habitat and food sources.

Native species: Grassland Earless Dragon

Invasive species: St John’s Wort

St John’s Wort is not a weed everywhere in the world, but in the ACT it can spread and take over, so native plants can’t grow. It is very tough and can grow in difficult conditions such as areas with low amounts of rainfall and nutrients in the soil, which is why it can spread easily.

Native species: Button Wrinklewort

Native species: Pale Pomaderris

Invasive species: Blackberry

Blackberries can survive without much water and can grow until they take over an area, stopping other plants from growing there.

Native species: High country bogs/mosses

Invasive species: Horses, cattle, pigs, deer

Hard hoofed animals destroy delicate mosses. Mosses are important for holding water and are habitat for species such as frogs.

Invasive species: Carp

Carp affect native fish species by eating their food and using their habitat.

Native species: Macquarie Perch

Grassland earless dragon by Mark Jekabsons, High country bogs by Mark Jekabsons, Macquarie Perch by E. Beaton

How much do you know about biodiversity?

This activity improves our general knowledge about biodiversity in the ACT. See if you know the answer to the questions. Hint, the answers are on this website! Once you think you know the answer, click on the card to see if you are right.

What do we call the variety of plants and animals that live in an ecosystem?


Can you name three invasive species in the ACT?

Rabbits, carp, deer, foxes, pigs, uncontrolled cats

True or false: Even native species (like a kangaroo) can sometimes become an environmental problem if there are too many in one area.


Warmer temperatures, heatwaves and reduced rainfall are harming our biodiversity. What is the causing these to occur?

Climate change

Different habitats support different plant and animal species. Can you name three habitat types found in the ACT?

Woodlands, forests, grasslands, rocky landscapes, mountain bogs and fens, rivers and wetlands.

What are 3 things we can do to help our plants and animals?

1, Plant more native species in your garden. 2, Protect older trees for animals. 3, Become a volunteer and protect the environment!