Australian coastal and marine ecosystems underpin community prosperity through fisheries, tourism, and recreation. As well, they protect shorelines and remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Unfortunately, as a consequence of human activities, many have undergone substantial declines in ecological health, and climate change is making this worse. For example, all of South Australia’s oyster reefs have gone, and 95% of Tasmania’s giant kelp forests.
Despite virtually universal agreement on the merits of restoring coastal and marine ecosystems, both in Australia and globally, most projects proceed at small-scale and with limited funding. Scaling restoration efforts to meet the extent of the problem is a huge challenge.
This project undertook a collaborative and consultative scoping exercise to understand the foundational requirements for implementing landscape-scale coastal and marine ecosystem restorations, and mapped a way forward.
Approach and findings
Relevant literature was examined, and contributions were sought via workshops and surveys, from researchers, Traditional Owners, decision-makers, practitioners, and other stakeholders. Questions were framed to understand:
- the current state of Australian marine and coastal systems;
- restoration limitations and opportunities;
- capacity of existing spatial models to predict flood and erosion benefits;
- available scientific data; and
- the research needed to support up-scaling.
Findings were interpreted and distilled into priority ‘headline’ issues each with an associated narrative, to form a ‘roadmap’, or way forward, to transition from the current state of typically small, uncoordinated and often underfunded efforts; to coordinated, large-scale, and well-resourced, ecological restorations.
The ten identified headline issues that must be addressed for landscape-scale marine and coastal restorations to proceed, are as follows.
- Co-design – Stakeholder inclusive project design, especially of Traditional Owners.
- Fit-for-purpose governance – Supportive, clear policies, permitting processes and reporting.
- No-gap funding – Very long-term, including for monitoring, management and maintenance.
- Access to social, economic and biophysical information – Open access to scientific data.
- Evidence-based, transparent decision-making – Appropriate, supportive science.
- Restoration coordinated at scale – Optimised environmental outcomes and economics.
- Robust monitoring, maintenance, valuation and reporting – For adaptive management.
- Clear strategy for climate change adaptation – Research, guidelines, plans and monitoring.
- Nature-based solutions implemented – As the first option, rather than engineering.
- Knowledge shared – Active, well-resourced practitioner and stakeholder networks.
- An approach for addressing the impediments to coastal and marine restoration up-scaling.
- A collaborative evaluation of issues to be addressed before broad-scale restorations can proceed.
- A prescribed Indigenous inclusive approach to restoration planning and implementation.
Large-scale and coordinated restoration of coastal and marine ecosystems will improve the environment, and our valued natural assets, whilst also generating jobs and providing communities with economic and social benefits.
Scaling up restoration nationally requires a new economic model that blends government funding with private sector and philanthropic investment. It should be based on a national-scale science-based plan, adopted at state and local levels, which helps deliver economic recovery, ecological benefits, and climate change adaptation.
Information gaps impede restoration decision-making at present, including: the viabilities of nature-based solutions for coastal hazard management; models to inform which actions to take and under what circumstances; and, a method for systematically prioritising restorations.
One of the key learnings is that there is a large gap between the experiences and perspectives of non-indigenous researchers, practitioners and decision-makers with respect to planning, and those of Traditional Custodians. In the future, genuine partnership approaches are critical.
James Cook University
The University of Queensland
University of New South Wales
The University of Melbourne
Gold Coast City Council
Land and sea rangers
Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service
Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water
State and territory coastal management agencies
Technical report – Project 1.6
A roadmap for coordinated landscape-scale coastal and marine ecosystem restoration
Saunders M, Waltham N, Cannard T, Sheppard M, Fischer M, Twomey A, BishopM, Boody K, Callaghan D, Fulton B, Lovelock C, Mayer Pinto M, McLeod I, McPherson T, Morris R, Pomeroy A, Ronan M, Swearer S, Steven A (2022). A roadmap for coordinated landscape-scale coastal and marine ecosystem restoration. Report to the Reef and Rainforest Research Centre. Cairns, Queensland.
Fact sheet – Project 1.6
Project 1.6 Information sheet
NESP Marine and Coastal Hub (2021). A roadmap for coordinated landscape-scale coastal and marine ecosystem restoration. Project 1.6 Information sheet. Reef and Rainforest Research Centre, Cairns, Queensland.