Using integrated data analysis to assess regional transferability

Project start date: 18/07/2022
Project end date: 31/03/2023
NESP funding: $139,984 (GST-exclusive)

This project is helping decision-makers determine the extent to which research undertaken in one region is transferable to another. The project is starting by adding data relevant to climate and threatened species to an existing integrated dataset. Secondly, it is analysing data to identify:

  • groups of regions that share ‘similar’ social, economic and biophysical characteristics and regions that are ‘similar’ to particular locations (e.g. priority places, protected areas)
  • regions that have characteristics most suited to particular planning approaches (that focus on conservation and ecological systems).

Regional planning is a term that can encompass different planning approaches including:

  • planning for protected areas
  • stewardship programs
  • restoration
  • ecosystem-based management
  • environmental impact assessments
  • regional threat-abatement planning (multi-species, multi-threat)
  • standard spatial planning
  • regional land-use planning
  • coastal-zone planning
  • cumulative impact assessments.

To achieve the greatest outcomes – such as knowledge gains and, ultimately, the protection of ecosystems and biodiversity – the funds allocated to research, planning and on-ground environmental action must be spent cost-effectively. This means being able to translate knowledge across regions in sensible ways to use the available evidence to build the most impactful environmental programs and ensuring that planning approaches best match the need of the decision-makers in any given region.

This project is focused on maximising the identification of similar areas and exploring the transferability of planning approaches by exploring 2 key questions:

  1. Which regions are similar (sharing key attributes) to each other or to other (priority) places? This is allowing researchers to ensure transferability and scalability of findings. Equally, it is allowing practitioners to search for areas that look and feel like ‘their’ regions to facilitate connections and the sharing of knowledge between ‘similar’ parts of Australia.
  2. What regional-planning approaches are most suited to or most needed in a particular region for conservation of ecosystems and species?

The identification of similar regions is constrained to terrestrial areas due to the footprint of socioeconomic data but the regions matched for management issues can be used in freshwater, coastal zones and adjacent marine areas.

This research will build upon previous investments in regional-to-national assemblage of datasets and preliminary work to ‘match’ regions that look and feel the same based on biophysical, social and economic attributes (including investments from the Commonwealth Environmental Research Facility [CERF] Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge [TRaCK], the National Environmental Research Program [NERP] and the first phase of the National Environmental Science Program [NESP]). It will also build upon previous investment in regional planning and in reviews of regional-planning approaches (also including CERF TRaCK, NERP and NESP investments).

Key research areas

To address this challenge and support research users in choosing to spend investment in on-ground environmental action most effectively, this project is:

  • assembling data and summarising by regions to help inform which regions are suited to particular planning approaches
  • supplementing an initial compilation of data (e.g. land cover, land clearing, vegetation type, species, population characteristics, household income) with critical climate variables and threats
  • analysing data collections through summarising fine-scale data up to a regional scale that is proving useful for planning and governance
  • applying, testing and refining the regional-planning decision tree from the Socioeconomic insights for resilient landscapes project so that land managers are best able to identify the type of planning approach best suited to their region and planning context
  • building on previous CERF, NERP and NESP research that assembled datasets or investigated regional-planning approaches
  • collaborating with NESP Marine and Coastal Hub researchers to ensure data is available, usable and in formats adaptable for work on both regional planning and standard operating procedures for socioeconomic data collection and assemblage
  • collaborating with the NESP Climate Systems Hub’s adaptation projects and the Marine and Coastal Hub’s cross-cutting initiative teams to provide information about the assessments of  ‘similar’ regions to inform possible transferability of potential adaptation measures.
  • Associate Professor Samantha Setterfield and a Mary River NP ranger planning park management. Photo: NESP Northern Hub.
  • Pointing at a map of the top end of the Northern Territory in the process of planning management actions. Photo: NESP Northern Hub.