Australia’s coastal wetland, estuarine and marine ecosystems are essential to our wellbeing.

Marine and coastal ecosystems protect shorelines, help to improve water quality, nurture marine life, promote tourism, store carbon, and hold special cultural values. In the past two centuries, however, these ecosystems have undergone widespread loss, modification and degradation, and they continue to be threatened due to climate change, development, and other human activities.

Australia is committed to the United Nations Leaders’ Pledge for Nature which aims to step up global ambition to tackle the climate crisis, halt biodiversity loss and deliver a nature positive world by 2030. A target is to protect and restore 30% of Australia’s degraded land, freshwater and ocean ecosystems by 2030.

The Nature Positive Plan released in 2022 by the Department of Climate Change, Energy, The Environment and Water (DCCEEW) signalled the need for urgent investment in nature repair, facilitated by coordinated planning. National policy mechanisms introduced to accelerate nature repair include those that leverage the carbon market and encourage philanthropic and private-sector investment.

For example, The Nature Repair Market ­aims to enable nature-related investment for landholders and communities. The Australian Government Ecosystem Restoration Fund and Blue Carbon Ecosystem Restoration Grants, and non-profit agencies such as OzFish and The Nature Conservancy have an interest in facilitating funding for nature repair aimed at protecting marine and coastal ecosystems.

Nature repair activities such as creating shellfish reefs and restoring tidal flows to saltmarshes aim to initiate ecological recovery and support biodiversity. Many such projects are happening in Australia, but on a limited scale and with limited coordination. The incentives and evidence base for nature repair are fragmented, and this uncertainty is a barrier to implementation.

Clear guidance and governance are needed to clarify the risks and opportunities and make nature repair attractive to investors including government and non-profit agencies, industry, landholders, communities and Indigenous groups.

This project builds on the findings of previous NESP research. It brings together leading research agencies and research users in a united approach to support and guide the scaling up of nature repair in Australia by:

  • updating databases of coastal and marine restoration and nature repair activities in Australia;
  • compiling an evidence base to lessen the risk of nature repair projects for investors, managers and practitioners; and 
  • drafting a national framework to guide and coordinate future investment.


The project team will work with the DCCEEW and state governments, non-profit agencies and Indigenous communities to gather information, and identify, and respond to their needs.

Updating databases

Information about the nature and outcomes of past projects is essential to making informed decisions about how and where to conduct nature repair. The project will update the existing national databases on marine nature repair in Australia, (Australian Coastal Restoration Network and Living Shorelines Australia) that report information such as location, habitat and repair approach.

Compiling an evidence base

This work will build on the updated databases and previous hub projects, (Project 1.6 and Project 3.7) to examine evidence of the effectiveness and risks of nature repair for regions, methods and projects. This will include conducting workshops with research users, and interviewing people with experience in nature repair projects. The aim is to identify measures and indicators of success, and improve the predictability of risks related to implementation.

The evidence base will cover seven themes: ecological, engineering, environmental, legal/governance, socio-economic, Indigenous and regional case studies. Each theme area has its own set of challenges. For example:

  • from an engineering perspective, nature repair to address coastal hazard may not meet engineering goals;
  • from an environmental perspective, climate change poses a risk to long term outcomes; and
  • from an Indigenous perspective, many groups have the interest but not the resources and capacity to engage in nature repair.

Drafting a national framework

A coordinated framework is needed to guide decision-making about where and how to invest effectively in nature repair. The project team will work with the DCCEEW and nature repair investors and specialists including through the Australian Coastal Restoration Network to identify what is needed in a national framework. For example, it may cover setting objectives, identifying suitable sites and actions, risks and liabilities, existing decision-support tools and technical guides, monitoring and evaluation, and Indigenous co-design and leadership.

A coordinated workshop program and working group will be established to consider factors such as alignment with Nature Positive legislation, international initiatives, existing frameworks, and concepts of multi-habitat seascape scale restoration. 

Expected outcomes

This project will consolidate the evidence base and provide advice on national coordination to support the scaling up of nature repair activities in Australia. Research users including the Australian and state governments, natural resource managers, non-profit agencies, researchers and community and Indigenous groups will be better equipped to:

  • understand the risks and benefits of nature repair;
  • optimise investment in and evaluation of nature repair activities;
  • manage and participate in nature repair and blue carbon markets; and
  • identify and respond to research priorities.

Together these will help the Australian Government meet priorities such as targets set under the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, and updating the national Biodiversity Action Plan and the Environment Information Australia portal.

Project location