The Conservation Planning Group conducts research on a wide variety of topics related to the economics of conservation, in particular marine conservation financing. Further, the group employs a variety of theory and methods from economics, including economic valuation and experimental economic games. This theme includes research projects that aim to inform conservation and natural resource management in Australia, Costa Rica, and Indonesia.

Marine Conservation Finance: Securing Marine Ecological and Socio-cultural Outcomes through Innovative and Strategic Finance
Research led by Melissa Bos

Many global measures of economic success account only for the production of economic capital without accounting for environmental externalities, and the result is an unstable system where the desire to maximise short-term profits works against desires to preserve long-term natural and human capital. The financial liability for marine resource degradation is displaced from private enterprise and taken up by governments and non-profits. On the flip side, profit motives can be redirected to create self-sustaining systems that produce ecological, socio-cultural, and economic outcomes through “impact investing.” While impact investments are being tested, a significant funding gap remains for marine conservation. Innovative finance mechanisms exist, but are relatively untested in the marine conservation context. Financial decisions are often made without stakeholder involvement, after participatory conservation plans are finished. This research investigates if and how impact investing can achieve marine conservation outcomes, design and test participatory processes for selecting marine finance mechanisms, and critically analyze the implementation of one finance mechanism in detail – marine biodiversity offsets in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

The contribution of the environment to wellbeing: a case study in Australia and Costa Rica
Research led by Adriana Chacon

The aim of this project is to investigate the contribution of the environment to wellbeing. I am testing the extent to which subjective measures of wellbeing (specifically, life satisfaction) are influenced by commonly used objective indicators of wellbeing (related to factors such as health, income, employment) and by environmental indicators in two case study areas. The project will fill important research gaps, providing empirical data on the contribution of the environment to wellbeing in specific contexts, whilst also improving methods for assessing that contribution.

Participation in devolved resource governance: socioeconomic factors related to participation in community-based management of marine protected areas in Indonesia
Research led by Dr Georgina Gurney

Management of natural resources is commonly implemented under institutional models promoting devolved decision-making, such as co-management and community-based conservation. Although participation of local people is critical to the success of devolved management of natural resources, few studies have empirically investigated how participation is related to socioeconomic factors that operate at multiple scales. In this project, we evaluated how individual- and community-scale factors were related to participation in management of community-based marine protected areas in Indonesia. We drew on multiple bodies of literature on human behaviour from economics and social science, including the theory of planned behaviour, the social-ecological systems framework from common-pool resource theory, and experimental economic games from behavioural economics. We found three key factors related to participation: subjective norms, structural elements of social capital, and nested institutions. There was also suggestive evidence that participation was related to people’s cooperative behavioural disposition, which we elicited using a public goods game. Our findings highlight the importance of considering multiple-scale mechanisms other than regulations and material incentives, which are typically employed in devolved management to encourage participation. Increased understanding of the factors related to participation could facilitate better targeting of investments aimed at encouraging cooperative management.


“The $40 million Reef Trust is a good start, but it could be better” The Conversation, 21 May 2014

“Should offsets fund the Coalition’s reef plan?” The Conversation, 4 September 2013

“Can banks make a profit by investing in the Great Barrier Reef?” The Conversation, 24 May 2013


Bos, M., Pressey, R.L., Stoeckl, N., 2015. Marine conservation finance: the need for and scope of an emerging field. Ocean & Coastal Management 114, 116-128.

Gurney, G., R.L. Pressey, N.C. Ban,  J.G. Álvarez-Romero, S. Jupiter, V. Adams. 2015. Integrating socioeconomic considerations into conservation planning: stakeholders-specific objectives produced more efficient and equitable designs in a marine protected area case study from Fiji. Conservation Biology 29: 1378–1389

Stoeckl, N., T. Chaiechi, M. Farr, D. Jarvis, J.G. Álvarez-Romero, M.J. Kennard, V. Hermoso, R.L. Pressey. 2015. Co-benefits and trade-offs between agriculture and conservation: a case study in Northern Australia. Biological Conservation 191: 478–494

Bos, M., R. Pressey, and N Stoeckl. 2014. Effective marine offsets for the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. Environmental Science and Policy (42): 1-15.