Spatial management, including setting aside conservation areas, is central to curbing the global decline of biodiversity, but many threats originate from beyond the boundaries of conservation areas. This is a particular problem for marine and freshwater ecosystems, which are influenced by many activities on land. In addition, connections between terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems support many species and ecological processes valued for conservation. The primary goals of projects in this theme include developing frameworks, methods and tools that incorporate ecological connections between terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems, and limit the impacts of cross-realm threats. This theme includes research that aims to inform conservation, natural resource management, and land and water use planning in Australia, Brazil, Fiji, Mexico and the Coral Triangle.

Catchment to coast planning for Northern Australia
Research led by Dr Jorge G. Álvarez-Romero and Dr Vanessa Adams

Integrated catchment-to-coast planning poses a significant challenge for decision makers because of the complexity of environmental, social and economic data, and the various objectives that need to be considered (e.g. soil, carbon, water, biodiversity). There are limited funds for investment in natural resource management, so the benefits of different investment strategies need to be balanced between multiple desired outcomes, across landscapes, in streams, and in coastal-marine ecosystems.This research will create a decision framework to guide catchment managers in making decisions about natural resource investments to achieve multiple objectives. This framework will allow land managers to draw together available environmental, social and economic information and to compare investment strategies to explicitly assess trade-offs between objectives. It will also consider development trajectories, cost, feasibility and effectiveness of alternative policy tools.

Conservation planning for a changing coastal zone
Research led by Dr Amélie Augé

The coastal zone of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) has been subject to intensive development. Coastal development has led to degradation or loss of coastal ecosystems, increase in run-off, and reduced water quality. These impacts threaten the health of the GBR. The key economic activities on land in the GBR coastal zone are related to shipping, intensive agriculture, urban development, and tourism. All these activities are set to expand and intensify. The broad goal of this project is to identify strategic priorities for protection and restoration of coastal ecosystems that support the health and resilience of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, in the context of changing land use, and expanding infrastructure. The project is developing, for the first time, spatially explicit scenarios of future land uses (to 2035) to help understand the influence of external economic drivers and local governance on the potential extent and configuration of major land uses. The scenarios are linked to Bayesian models that provide insights into the cumulative impacts of future development on selected ecosystems and species in the GBR.

Integrated land-sea planning in the Gulf of California, Mexico
Research led by Dr Jorge G. Álvarez-Romero

Human-induced changes in flows of water, nutrients, and sediments have impacts on marine ecosystems. Quantifying these changes to systematically allocate management actions is a priority for many areas worldwide, including the Gulf of California, where managing land-based threats to marine ecosystems is a priority. The project aims to further develop prioritization of conservation areas undertaken in the region with an integrated land-sea perspective. We explore theoretical and methodological aspects of two decision-making problems: integrating cross-realm threats (how land-based threats can affect marine spatial prioritization), and considering competing values (spatial congruence between upstream and downstream values of coastal catchments). The project included a review of existing planning exercises to identify critical elements of integrated land-sea planning and suggested ways of explicitly incorporating land-sea connections through the use of a novel operational framework.


Álvarez-Romero, J. G., R. L. Pressey, N. C. Ban, J. Brodie. 2015. Advancing land-sea conservation planning: integrating modelling of catchments, land-use change, and river plumes to prioritise catchment management and protection. PLoS ONE 10(12): e0145574

Álvarez-Romero, J. G., Adams, V. M., Pressey, R. L., Douglas, M., Dale, A., Auge, A., Ball, D., Childs, J., Digby, M., Dobbs, R., Gobius, N., Hinchley, D., Lancaster, I., Maughan, M., Perdrisat, I., 2015. Integrated cross-realm planning: a decision-makers’ perspective. Biological Conservation 191: 799-808

Petus, C., E. Da Silva, M. Devlin, A. Wenger, J. G. Álvarez-Romero. 2014. Using MODIS data for mapping of water types within river plumes in the Great Barrier Reef, Australia: towards the production of river plume risk maps for reef and seagrass ecosystems. Journal of Environmental Management 137: 163-177

Adams, V. M., J. G. Álvarez-Romero, J. Carwardine, L. Cattarino, V. Hermoso, M. J. Kennard, S. Linke, R. L. Pressey, and N. Stoeckl. 2014. Planning across freshwater and terrestrial realms: co-benefits and tradeoffs between conservation actions. Conservation Letters 7 (5): 425-440

Álvarez-Romero, J.G., S.N. Wilkinson, R.L. Pressey, N.C. Ban, J. Kool, J. Brodie. 2014. Modeling catchment nutrients and sediment loads to inform regional management of water quality in coastal-marine ecosystems: a comparison of two approaches. Journal of Environmental Management 146: 164-178

Álvarez-Romero, J.G., M. Devlin, E. Teixeira da Silva, C. Petus, N.C. Ban, R..L. Pressey, J. Kool, J.J. Roberts, S. Cerdeira-Estrada, A.S. Wenger, J. Brodie. 2013. A novel approach to model exposure of coastal-marine ecosystems to riverine flood plumes based on remote sensing techniques. Journal of Environmental Management 119: 194-207

Ban, N.C., S. Januchowski-Hartley, J.G. Álvarez-Romero, M. Mills, R. L. Pressey, S. Linke, D. de Freitas. 2013. Marine and freshwater conservation planning: from representation to persistence. In: Conservation Planning: Shaping the Future. L. Craighead and C. Convis (editors). ESRI Press, Redlands, CA

Álvarez-Romero, J.G., R.L. Pressey, N.C. Ban, J. Torre-Cosío, O. Aburto-Oropeza. 2013. Marine conservation planning in practice: lessons learned from the Gulf of California. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems (23) 4: 483-505

Álvarez-Romero, J.G., R.L. Pressey, N.C. Ban, K. Vance-Borland, C. Willer, C. J. Klein, S.D. Gaines. 2011. Integrated land-sea conservation planning: the missing links. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics 42:381-409

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