Project start date: 01/07/2021
Project end date: 31/12/2027
NESP funding: $800,000 (GST-exclusive)
Many challenges for resilient landscapes are attributable to people – but people are an essential part of solutions that strengthen and restore resilience. Good data and information are necessary but not sufficient on their own, as outcomes also depend on social and economic values, norms and behaviours. There is a need for socioeconomic research to better evaluate, plan and implement actions.
The Resilient Landscapes Hub has been tasked with addressing several socioeconomic research priorities which could help reduce the impacts of the multiple pressures on Australia’s ecosystems and biodiversity.
One priority is to evaluate the success of different environmental plans, strategies or actions (such as offsets and biodiversity markets, regulations, and changes to curriculum through Education for Sustainability principles) on biodiversity outcomes. This evaluation may use methods such as environmental economic accounting or environmental valuation.
A second area of priority relates to planning approaches. This involves designing systems to analyse cumulative impact and regional planning assessments. These can inform the design of policies and plans, including offsets policies, and may include information about environmental values, costs and benefits. Regional planning could include integrated, landscape-scale planning – including strengthening the links between research and regional natural resource management planning – and improved resilience planning, particularly in the context of a changing climate and multiple interacting threats.
Finally, implementation focuses on the motivations, incentives, and organisational and societal norms that influence the extent to which environmental plans, policies and actions are able to change behaviours and generate positive on-ground environmental outcomes.
Key research areas
Read the report on this work.
People and nature live in and are supported by connected, integrated, socio-ecological systems. Accurately characterising these systems is becoming increasingly important to holistically manage biodiversity and natural resources. However, data to adequately describe these systems is lacking, and it is prohibitively expensive to collect enough data to describe all aspects of the systems in detail.
It is important to think strategically about how to use the information we do have and prioritise the collection of new data.
There are various frameworks that describe relationships between humans and nature in a connected human–nature system. We analysed these frameworks for their use in natural-resource management, their typical outputs, the capitals (resources) considered and the flow of benefits.
We used these insights to identify and describe the ‘ideal’ dataset needed to adequately support natural-resource managers in different situations, and to improve the information that is available for policy-makers to generate better human–nature outcomes.
The frameworks focused on relationships between nature and people – both good and bad – and are relevant to different problems. The frameworks highlighted the broad range of data required to adequately support resource managers – the ‘wish list’ of data needs.
We used the wish list as a guide to search for relevant Australian data. We then compared the wish list with our compilation to identify data gaps. Not all frameworks are relevant to all practical or policy problems, so data gaps are more relevant to some problems than others. We outlined ways of using our compiled dataset and designed a conceptual model explaining our pathway to producing our wish-list dataset and how it can facilitate improved environmental policy outcomes (see figure below).
An integrated human–nature model helps us to derive insights from frameworks to determine the selection of indicators to guide environmental policy for better human and nature outcomes. Image: Resilient Landscapes Hub.
To accurately describe the reciprocal and connected human–nature system, it is not enough to only consider the socioeconomic and natural characteristics of the system. Additional variables that may also need to be considered include:
Most decision-makers who seek to improve human–nature outcomes will need data that describes a broad range of capitals, such as human capital (e.g. population density), social/institutional capital (e.g. land tenure), financial/built capital (e.g. economic participation) and natural capital (e.g. forests), as well as the interactions between them.
Many frameworks describe both the extent of capitals (e.g. number of people, types of forests) and their status (e.g. people’s age and income, forest extent and health). It is also important to include other measures that describe broader contextual factors (e.g. the social and economic environment in which people live, the climatic conditions in which forests live).
In addition to describing the current state of the system, processes of change and interventions that have the potential to create change also need to be considered. This may include variables that are indicators of change (to various capitals) or predictors of outcomes of management interventions.
Significant data gaps include the relative scarcity of data describing core human and social/institutional capitals. Detailed data requirements will vary by context, including the particulars of the problem to be addressed, the scale of the problem to be addressed and the stakeholders involved.
Funds allocated to research, planning and on-ground environmental action must be spent cost effectively to achieve the best outcomes for ecosystems and biodiversity. This means translating knowledge across regions in sensible ways, using the available evidence to build the most impactful environmental programs.
Our integrated dataset lays the foundations for doing just that. It consistently describes areas across Australia using metrics that can be compared and analysed to identify regions that share similar attributes. It provides resource managers with social, economic and biophysical background across Australia that is both useful and contextual.
Our dataset and the supporting information within this report provide a platform that can be used in subsequent investigations to:
We are working to add additional variables to our dataset that relate to climate, water, aquatic biodiversity and threatened species. We will then analyse the data to identify groups of regions that share similar social, economic and biophysical characteristics. We will also be able to identify regions that share similar characteristics to important places such as protected areas and priority places identified in the Threatened Species Strategy Action Plan 2021–2026, and to identify regions that have characteristics most suited to particular planning approaches.
This regional-planning decision tree can be used with the compiled dataset to help planners choose the right plan for the right place. This news post has more information on these approaches. Image: Resilient Landscapes Hub.
This project is being led by Associate Professor Vanessa Adams from the University of Tasmania.
Examples of potential research users
This list will be developed further through the co-design process.