Professor Kingsley Dixon on Biodiversity


My earliest memory of the WA bush is walking out of the front door of my parent’s little house and seeing a summer star flower - a bright lollipop pink thing, Calytrix fraseri, in full flower, and I have admired that plant ever since.'

I guess at that point - well I didn’t realise it at that exact point - that there’s something very different about the WA bush that sealed my passion as a plant person and later as Kings Park’s first head of botanical science.

The WA bush is extraordinary. It survives some of the most stringent conditions of low nutrients, fire, high temperatures and long drought but is still able to become an absolute paradise.

I share this passion with my Noongar colleagues and students - our bushland teaches us the extraordinary equilibrium that natural environments create. When it gets hot, plants in the bush go to sleep, insects go back to pupae stages, and birds are only active at dawn and dusk.

The bush does not fight the system but it works with the system. In doing so, the bush teaches every human important lessons of humility.

But, as you know, our bush is diminishing with many threatened species and lost ecosystems.

Just in my short lifetime, the very fabric of our south west bushland - our famous banksia woodlands that I used to walk through as kid - from Jurien Bay to Busselton - is a threatened ecological community.

Whilst we can never rebuild the Banskia Woodlands like it was before, Vic Park - with
some other Local Governments - is one of the leaders in conserving and strengthening WA’s remaining bush and its biodiversity through restoring the last fragments of wild woodlands.

The Town’s Urban Forest programs focus on the “mobile” biodiversity which means it will result in the “revisiting” of fauna from microbats all the way to our majestic Carnaby Cockatoos.

The Carnaby’s for example have been visiting the Town for potentially 200,000 years when it was only Banksia Woodlands. So how well we manage the health and future of Carnaby’s really is the bellwether of Vic Park’s biodiversity success.

If we can provide healthy food through proper forage trees (that includes planting nourishing nut varieties as street trees or in veggie gardens), protect nesting hollows, and provide water points, we can help stop the Carnaby’s conservation crisis.
Now, for those who ask “What can I do?” or “I don’t have a garden space to help.”

Easy! Talk to your neighbours, community and the Town to create a Friends Group for a median strip, a Friends Group of the corner block - there is already a Friends of Jirdarup. 
Or ask the Town for volunteer opportunities with local groups.

At the end of it all, if we care for all of these things together - we get healthier environments - something backed by all the research in eco-health that shows cultures are better off when they are connected to their biodiversity and when they protect and grow that biodiversity.

Professor Kingley Dixon is the 2016 WA Scientist of the Year and founding Director of Science at Kings Park and Botanic Gardens. He is credited for the 1992 discovery of smoke as a cause for the germination of Australian plants after bushfires and discovery of a new molecule that stimulates this effect: karrikinolide.

Watch Professor Kingsley Dixon’s recorded online workshop as part of Vic Park Green Future and 2022 WA Tree Festival event on: