Catchment to coast planning

This project developed a framework that helps catchment managers make decisions about natural resource investments that can be easily understood and readily adopted by stakeholders. The framework allows land managers to draw together available environmental, social and economic information and to compare investment strategies to explicitly assess trade-offs between objectives. The framework was developed and tested with decision makers in the Daly River catchment and the Gilbert River catchment and can be applied across terrestrial, freshwater and marine realms.

Land managers must navigate complex decisions about where and how to spend limited budgets on different land management activities. These activities may include controlling weeds, preventing large bushfires and reducing the populations of feral animals to minimise their impacts on biodiversity. At the same time, users of natural resources and governing institutions are making decisions that affect the natural resources (e.g. water, native vegetation and soil) now and in the future. An operational framework which facilitates these decisions in a range of contexts can help to inform good land and water resource policies.

Previous conceptual and operational frameworks have been developed in academic settings without participation of decision-makers responsible for implementing plans. To address this limitation, the researchers consulted a group of applied researchers, government agencies, catchment management groups, and other key decision-makers to discuss the requirements and challenges of planning for multiple realms. This enabled the researchers to develop a new operational framework that can be applied anywhere that catchment managers are trying to make decisions about natural resource management across terrestrial, freshwater and marine realms. The proposed framework can help to operationalise real-world cross-realm planning and significantly advances on existing approaches that only consider the realms individually.

The framework was developed and tested with decision makers in two catchments in northern Australia:

  • Daly River Catchment – the framework was used to guide the development of land use scenarios that plan for both development and conservation, as well as taking into account diverse values (e.g. conservation and Indigenous values) in the Daly’s terrestrial and freshwater realms. Scenario analyses are useful tools given limited data on cross-realm processes.
  • Gilbert River Catchment – the framework is being used to identify priorities for land management activities that address common threats in northern Australia, such as feral animals and weeds. The researchers also accounted for the benefits of management action across realms by considering species associated with both terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems, and by including management actions that can contribute to protecting terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.

The project was focused on two catchments: the Gilbert River catchment in Queensland and the Daly River catchment in the Northern Territory.

The project was conducted by researchers at James Cook University in Townsville and Charles Darwin University in Darwin. The team was led by Professor Bob Pressey.

Project Leader:
Professor Bob Pressey
James Cook University
[email protected]
(07) 4781 6194