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Accounting with the City Biodiversity Index in Sydney's local councils: challenges and opportunities
thesisposted on 2022-03-28, 19:03 authored by Seerat Ul Urooj
Purpose - Biodiversity supports and sustains the ecosystems of the world. However, despite its importance, it continues to decline at a rapid rate. Over the last two decades, numerous local municipalities worldwide have begun to act to preserve urban biodiversity, and one measure - The City Biodiversity Index (CBI) - has emerged as a popular technique to help cities evaluate their progress in biodiversity conservation activities. However, CBI has not yet been applied at smaller scales, such as local municipalities. This study was, therefore undertaken to investigate the opportunities and challenges of implementing CBI at the local municipality level. To interrogate the motivations, challenges, and opportunities of CBI at a municipal level, the research question asked is: What are the practical challenges and opportunities to implementing CBI within metropolitan Sydney's local councils? -- Research design and methods - Case studies on two local councils in the Sydney metropolitan comprising document analysis and semi-structured interviews provide the evidence for analysis. The six-stage hybrid approach described by Fereday and Muir-Cochrane (2006) was used to code and analyse the data, and the results are interpreted through the theoretical lens of stewardship, which is consistent with the prior literature on biodiversity conservation and biodiversity accounting. -- Findings - Several findings emerge from the case evidence. First, shared stewardship between councils and communities is essential to biodiversity conservation. Second, a standardised framework for managing, monitoring, and reporting on conservation activities is needed for decisionmaking and comparability. The CBI framework is a good starting point and, with several modifications and adaptations, it could become a valuable shared technique at the municipal level. However, even though the councils already collect most of the information needed to apply the CBI indicators, much of it is scattered, unclear, or as yet undisclosed to the public. Further challenges to applying CBI include data availability and quality, robust definitions for some of the boundaries and assessment criteria, a lack of rigour in the sampling methodologies, and managing community perceptions. Particularly noteworthy is that community partnerships were emphasised as being important to both the creation of long-term datasets and to protecting biodiversity through campaigns and volunteering. -- Research implications - This study contributes to the limited literature on accounting for biodiversity conservation by providing an analysis of the feasibility, challenges, and opportunities associated with using CBI as a local council technique for biodiversity accounting. The findings are specifically relevant to policymakers at the Convention for Biological Diversity (CBD) who have called for suggestions to improve CBI, and the Singapore government continues to develop the CBI framework. More broadly, this research is relevant to standard setters and policymakers at various level of the Australian government, as one of the key insights is that effective biodiversity accounting requires a coordinated, multi-level approach. Lastly, the study identifies the importance of community partnerships in biodiversity accounting, coupled with a call for further work in this area.