Research Hubs

National Environmental Research Program

On 13 September 2011 the Minister approved the research plans for the five research hubs funded by this Department under the National Environmental Research Program (NERP). Funding of $68.5 million over the next 4 years has been allocated to provide first-class science that is essential for sustainably managing Australia's environment.

A key feature of the NERP is that the researchers have been funded on the basis that their research teams will provide a capacity to inform the short, medium and long term research needs of the environment and sustainability portfolio.

The investments are as follows:

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NERP Environmental Decisions Hub - Leader Professor Hugh Possingham

Hub Leader: Professor Hugh Possingham

Host organisation/administrator: The University of Queensland

Governance arrangements: A Hub Steering Committee led by an independent chair (currently Dr Simon Ferrier, CSIRO) will provide overall governance. The Committee will be responsible for ensuring the Hub research plan addresses stated NERP priorities and stakeholder requirements and monitoring progress against milestones. In addition, a Management Executive for the hub will be convened.

Research partners: The University of Melbourne, RMIT University, The Australian National University, The University of Western Australia.

Other collaborators: Parks Victoria, Department of Sustainability and Environment (Victoria), Department of Environment and Climate Change, New South Wales, CSIRO.

Funding

(all figures are exclusive of GST)

NERP Environmental Decisions Hub Funding
NERP funding $11 million  
Co-investment $6.4 million  
Total Hub Investment $17.4 million  
Communications component of NERP funding $1.32 million 12%
Administration component of NERP funding $0 0% (ie all from co-investors)

Research Program

Hub mission:

The hub will improve environmental decision-making. Key biodiversity issues will be better understood and the research will help governments develop practical approaches to securing Australia's biodiversity.

Research program description:

The Environmental Decisions hub will undertake research on terrestrial biodiversity in a wide range of environments to assist government agencies to protect and restore Australia' biodiversity. The research will include new tools, data, models and authoritative syntheses that enable Australian governments to make evidence-based decisions that halt, then reverse, the decline in biodiversity. The hub research program is structured around delivering outcomes for each of the five NERP research priorities: values, ecosystems, threats, sustainable use and markets.

Research themes:

The Environmental Decision Hub research program is structured around the following 5 themes.

Theme Description Examples of expected benefits
1. Values: Understanding major Drivers for Maintaining Biodiversity. Dr Michael McCarthy, University of Melbourne (UoM) and Dr Kerrie Wilson, University of Queensland (UQ) This theme is examining how different values of ecosystems, species, and potentially antagonistic or synergistic environmental, social and economic benefits interact to influence conservation outcomes and how these should be addressed in conservation planning. The research from this theme will assist and improve the department's biodiversity on ground management challenges, including within the National Reserve System and on island ecosystems.
2. Understand function / monitoring of ecosystem health. Professor David Lindenmayer and Dr Don Driscoll, both from the Australian National University (ANU) Projects under this theme will address key questions associated with the relationships between ecosystem-based management and vegetation condition, and species responses, with a focus on the development of datasets and models that will enable cost-effective monitoring and adaptive management. The research under this theme will focus on ecosystem modelling and monitoring case studies at locations around Australia building on existing collaborative relationships: Box-Gum Woodlands, Central Highlands, Cumberland Plain and Central Victorian woodlands, Basalt Plains grasslands of Victoria, Booderee National Park in Jervis Bay Territory, Brigalow forests in Queensland, the wheat belt of Western Australia, and Otway National Park. The research from this theme will assist and improve on-ground outcomes in managing the National Parks, monitoring the effectiveness of the Stewardship Programs and Recovery Planning under the EPBC Act.
3. Threats: Building Resilience for Evolving Threats. Dr Tara Martin, CSIRO and Prof Mark Burgman, UoM This theme aims to make the concept of resilience to threat operational using a combination of field research, decision theory, population and climate impact modelling, collaborative syntheses, systematic reviews, expert elicitation, fore-sighting and integration of dynamic threat data, biodiversity data and socio-economic data into planning processes. The research from this theme will assist and improve Departmental programs including Parks and Biodiversity Science programs; Marine conservation and protected area planning; and Australian Antarctic Strategic planning.
4. Sustainable use of Biodiversity and Ecosystems. Prof Richard Hobbs University of Western Australia (UWA), and Dr Sarah Bekessy, RMIT University Managing the sustainable use of biodiversity and ecosystems demands an integrated approach that reconciles ecological, social and economic dimensions. Research that tackles these three elements simultaneously is challenging due to disparate disciplinary thinking and dialects. The Environmental Decisions hub researchers Hobbs, Bekessy, Pannell, Gibbons and Driscoll drive strong research agendas that simultaneously address social, economic and biological drivers of change, and indicators of utility, particularly in peri-urban and semi-rural environments. The research from this theme will assist and inform the best approaches for implementation of EPBC Act Strategic Assessments and Regional Sustainability Plans.
5. Biodiversity Economics and Markets, Prof David Pannell (UWA) and Dr Phillip Gibbons (ANU) The theme emphasises inter-disciplinary research to increase the relevance of the Hub's research for policy and management. Issues researched will include the use of specific policy mechanisms (such as market-based instruments and offsets), monitoring strategies, improving evidence–based policy, accounting for equity in project assessment, and integration of carbon and biodiversity policies. The research from this theme will assist and inform the Department's use of market based instruments in Environmental Offsets under the EPBC Act and Caring for Country program.

Research projects:

There are 30 research projects in the hub are organised under the 5 themes.

Theme 1: Values: Understanding major Drivers for Maintaining Biodiversity
No. Title
1.1 Phylogenetic data and spatial prioritization. Dr Michael McCarthy
1.2 Minimum survey effort requirements. Dr Brendan Wintle
1.3 The effect of multi–species interactions on invasive species eradication. Dr Yvonne Buckley
1.4 Restoration at NRM Regional scale. Professor Hugh Possingham
1.5 Recovery Planning / Threatened Species / EPBC Act. Professor Hugh Possingham,
1.6 Antarctic Draft Conservation Plan, Professor Hugh Possingham
1.7 Evaluating and Prioritising Koala Conservation Measures, Dr Jonathan Rhodes
Theme 2: Understand function / monitoring of ecosystem health
No. Name
2.1 Ecosystem vs species management. Professor David Lindenmayer
2.2 Predicting impacts of ecosystem management. Professor David Lindenmayer
2.3 Value of genetic data. Professor David Lindenmayer
2.4 Long-term monitoring strategies. Professor David Lindenmayer
Theme 3: Threats: building resilience for evolving threats
No. Name
3.1 Operational definitions and measures of resilience in conservation. Professor Richard Hobbs
3.2 Building Resilient Biodiversity Assets. Dr Tara Martin
3.3 The role of large scale connectivity projects in conserving biodiversity under multiple threats including habitat loss and climate change. Is connectivity conservation the most effective tool? Dr Brendan Wintle and Professor Hugh Possingham
3.4 Evaluating the role of fine scale habitat connectivity in resilient populations. Dr Don Driscoll
3.5 The role and management of refugial habitats. Professor David Lindenmayer
3.6 Horizon scanning. Professor Mark Burgman
3.7 National Reserve System (NRS) efficiency analysis, including reserve acquisition versus improved management of existing reserves. Professor Hugh Possingham and Dr Richard Fuller
Theme 4: Terrestrial Biodiversity Conservation
No. Name
4.1 Trade-offs among social, economic and environmental values, Professor Richard Hobbs, r Terry Walshe & Dr Don Driscoll
4.2 Understanding and planning for urbanization impacts on biodiversity, Dr Sarah Bekessy
4.3 Biobanking and offset schemes. Professor Richard Hobbs
4.4 Regional Sustainability Plans, Dr Brendan Wintle & Dr Kirsten Parris
4.5 Scoping the role of systematic reviews in providing conservation management advice to the Commonwealth. Professor Hugh Possingham & Dr Richard Fuller
Theme 5: Biodiversity Monitoring and Reporting
No. Name
5.1 Market–based instruments for biodiversity. Dr Graeme Doole
5.2 Monitoring for adaptive management Projects. Dr Brendan Wintle
5.3 Balancing efficiency and equity in environmental project assessment. Professor David Pannell
5.4 Improving evidence–based policy. Professor David Pannell
5.5 Lessons for policy from Australia's experience with biodiversity offsets for conservation. Dr Phil Gibbons
5.6 Integration of the carbon biodiversity market trade-ons. Dr Brendan Wintle Melbourne
5.7 Balancing target and untargeted approaches to biodiversity protection. Professor David Pannell

NERP Landscapes and Policy Hub - Professor Ted Lefroy

Hub Leader: Professor Ted Lefroy

Host organisation/administrator: University of Tasmania

Governance arrangements: A Hub Steering Committee led by the independent chair, Professor Barbara Norman, provides overall governance. The committee is responsible for ensuring the hub research plan addresses stated NERP priorities and stakeholder requirements, and monitoring progress against milestones. In addition, a Management Committee of the hub's eight project leaders and communication team convenes bimonthly.

Research Partners: University of Tasmania (UTAS), Australian National University (ANU), Murdoch University, the Antarctic Climate & Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre (ACE CRC), Griffith University and Charles Sturt University (CSU)

Other collaborators: Department of the Environment; the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment; Parks Victoria; the Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment; NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service; the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, Australian Alps Liaison Committee, NRM North (Tasmania), Tasmanian Land Conservancy, Bush Heritage, Greening Australia. Others to be determined as necessary and appropriate, including the ACT Government agencies, catchment management organisations in Victoria and NSW and, local government authorities in Tasmania and Victoria, community groups and others involved in regional planning.

Funding

NERP Environmental Decisions Hub Funding
NERP funding $6 million  
Co-investment $9.24 million  
Total Hub Investment $15.24 million  
Communications component of NERP funding $1.24 million 20.6%
Administration component of NERP funding $0 0% (ie all from co-investors)

Research Program

Hub mission:

To bring consideration of biodiversity into mainstream planning processes by fostering an interdisciplinary approach that (i) incorporates integrated assessment of social, institutional, economic and biophysical attributes and (ii) is capable of examining the likely consequences of alternative biodiversity policies, planning instruments and institutional arrangements.

Research program description:

The hub will develop tools, techniques and policy pathways to support regional biodiversity planning by taking an integrated social, economic and ecological perspective of large scale biodiversity conservation. Techniques will be developed to analyse existing regional scale environmental, economic and social datasets and combine this with fine scale regional climate modelling to examine the likely prospects for areas of high natural values and the social and economic implications of a range of biodiversity planning and policy responses. It will do this by examining the likely implications of different scenarios of climate change, land use change, land management, demographic change, infrastructure development and other human and natural influences on habitat suitability for selected mammal, reptile, bird, amphibian and plant taxa with a particular focus on species and communities listed as MNES (Matters of National Environmental Significance) under the EPBC Act. The implications of different biodiversity planning processes, policies and institutional arrangements on fire risk, water yield, carbon sequestration and social and economic well being will then be assessed using ecological analysis and modelling, experimental economics and social and institutional research in two contrasting landscapes, the greater Tasmanian Midlands and the Australian Alps.

Research themes:

The Landscapes and Policy Hub research program is structured around the following three themes which by the end of the program will be integrated into one tangible product.

Theme Description Examples of expected benefits
1. Communication Professor Ted Lefroy This theme will build and maintain relationships with government agencies, regional NRM organisations, NGOs and other organisations involved in biodiversity planning. Additionally, the theme will promote communication across NERP hubs and within the LaP hub, across themes and projects. This theme will result in improved understanding of how existing information can be integrated in regional scale biodiversity planning.
2. Social and Economic Futures Dr Michael Lockwood & Dr Sue Moore This theme will identify policy, planning and institutional measures to support biodiversity conservation at regional scales based on historical analysis of past responses, scenarios of alternative arrangements, and structured engagement with stakeholders to discuss and analyse the response to different scenarios. This theme will result in improved understanding of the key institutional, social and economic drivers of biodiversity conservation interventions (regulation and management) in the two case study regions.
3. Ecological Futures Professor Brendan Mackey This theme will use a wide range of existing environmental datasets to develop conceptual models of biodiversity status and trend in each region. It also aims to identify the key drivers including land use change, climate change, and demographic change and likely biodiversity response variables using a range of socially desired and legislated conservation outcomes. This theme will improve our understanding of the relationships between functional and compositional aspects of biodiversity at regional scale in the 2 case study areas.

Research projects:

There are eight research projects in the hub which are organised under the three themes.

Theme 1: Communications and Knowledge Brokering — Professor Ted Lefroy

Theme 2: Social and Economic Futures
No. Name
2 Social and Institutional Futures — Dr Michael Lockwood and Dr Sue Moore
3 Economic futures — Professor John Tisdell
Theme 3: Ecological Futures
No. Name
4 Bioregional Futures — Professor Brendan Mackey
5 Climate Futures — Professor Nathan Bindoff
6 Wildlife — Professor Chris Johnson
7 Vegetation and Fire — Professor David Bowman
8 Freshwater Systems — Professor Peter Davies

NERP Northern Australia Hub - Leader Professor Michael Douglas

Host organisation/administrator: Charles Darwin University

Governance arrangements: A Hub Steering Committee led by the independent chair, Mr John Childs, is providing overall governance. The Committee is responsible for ensuring the Hub research plan addresses stated NERP priorities and stakeholder requirements and monitoring progress against milestones. In addition, a Research Executive Committee has been convened.

Research partners: Australian National University, The Australian Wildlife Conservancy, James Cook University, CSIRO, Griffith University, University of Sydney, University of Western Australia, Murdoch University, Northern Australian Indigenous Land and Sea Managers Alliance, Northern Territory Department of Natural Resources, Environment, the Arts and Sport, R.M. Williams Agricultural Holdings, Warrdeken Land Management Limited and Djelk Rangers (part of the Bawinanga Aboriginal Corporation).

Other collaborators: Indigenous organisations (including the Northern Land Council, Kimberley Land Council, Balkanu Cape York Development Corporation and the Daly River Aboriginal Reference Group), regional Natural Resource Management organisations and other non-government organisations.

Funding

(all figures are exclusive of GST)

NERP Northern Australia Hub Funding
NERP funding $14.7 million  
Co-investment $15.8 million  
Total Hub Investment $30.5 million  
Communications component of NERP funding $2.3 million 15.6%
Administration component of NERP funding $1.42 million 9.6%

Research Program

Hub mission:

To improve biodiversity conservation in northern Australia through sound planning, innovative policy and strong partnerships

Research program description:

The Northern Australia Hub will focus on the terrestrial, freshwater and estuarine ecosystems of the northern savanna landscapes. Much of the research has an adaptive "catchment to coast" planning and management framework. The Hub will address gaps in our understanding of biodiversity patterns; support adaptive planning to respond to current and emerging threats; develop effective methods for monitoring and reporting on biodiversity and ecosystem health; determine the benefits derived from community-based natural resource management and identify opportunities to support Indigenous livelihoods.

Research themes:

The Northern Australia Hub research program is structured around the following five themes.

Theme Description Examples of expected benefits

1. Planning and Sustainable Financing for Biodiversity Conservation
Professor Bob Pressey, James Cook University

This theme will develop integrated approaches to catchment to coast planning and adaptive management that consider multiple management objectives and the fairest and most effective mix of policy and management tools to conserve biodiversity considering social acceptability and feasibility. The outcomes of this research are relevant to a number of areas in the Department. For example, information on the cost of biodiversity management will inform Working on Country Program funding decisions. It will also assist in consideration of protected areas under the National Reserve System and complimentary off-reserve management.

2. Indigenous Natural Resource Management and Livelihoods
Dr Sue Jackson, CSIRO

This theme will support Indigenous biodiversity management and improve understanding of the full-range of private and public benefits derived from Indigenous community-based natural resource management, including customary management practices (e.g. local knowledge) and customary use of biological resources. It will develop methods for measuring economic, social and cultural benefits for prioritising landscape investment for demonstrating environmental benefits. The outcomes of this research will develop adaptive management frameworks which will inform the Working on Country Indigenous Ranger and Indigenous Protected Area programs.

3. Aquatic Biodiversity Conservation
Professor Stuart Bunn, Griffith University

This theme will address the relatively poor state of understanding of freshwater biodiversity in northern Australia by building on past research to analyse freshwater biodiversity patterns, identify critical ecosystem processes linking freshwater and terrestrial biodiversity and develop effective management responses to critical threats to freshwater biodiversity particularly weed invasion and climate change. The outcomes of this research are relevant to a number of polices and programs in the Department. For example research on species information will inform environmental assessments, approvals, recovery planning under the Environment Protection Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and international conventions. This research will also directly contribute to operations of Northern National Parks such as Kakadu and inform Working on Country Indigenous Ranger program..

4. Terrestrial Biodiversity Conservation
Dr Alaric Fisher, Northern Territory Department of Natural Resources Environment the Arts and Sport

This theme will focus directly on research to develop effective landscape-scale management to reverse biodiversity decline and prevent further declines, particularly of the small mammal group. It will focus strategically on priority issues where insufficient knowledge is currently the major impediment to effective biodiversity management. This research will contribute to the implementation of conservation policies such as recovery planning, the operations and knowledge of Northern National Parks, including Kakadu and inform Working on Country Indigenous Ranger program.

5. Biodiversity Monitoring and Reporting
Dr Rod Kennett, North Australia Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance

This theme will focus on Biodiversity Monitoring which is an essential step within the adaptive management and planning process. It will address the particular challenges in monitoring and reporting conservation outcomes across broad landscapes in northern Australia where land managers have diverse values and management objectives. This research will contribute to the implementation of conservation policies such as recovery planning and the National Reserve System, the operations and knowledge of Northern National Parks, including Kakadu and inform conservation planning and management on Indigenous lands.

Research projects:

There are 16 research projects in the hub which are organised under the five themes.

Theme 1: Planning and Sustainable Financing for Biodiversity Conservation
No. Name
1.1 Catchment to coast planning, Professor Bob Pressey, James Cook University
1.2 Socio-economic tools to support biodiversity planning, Professor Romy Greiner, Charles Darwin University
1.3 Minimising the costs of biodiversity, Associate Professor Natalie Stoeckl, James Cook University
1.4 Carbon markets and biodiversity conservation on pastoral land, Alaric Fisher, NT Department of Natural Resources, Environment, the Arts and Sport
Theme 2: Indigenous Natural Resource Management and Livelihoods
No. Name
2.1 Indigenous Natural Resource Management and livelihoods, Dr Sue Jackson and Jon Altman, CSIRO and Australian National University
2.2 Indigenous biodiversity management, Mr Joe Morrison, North Australia Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance
Theme 3: Aquatic Biodiversity Conservation
No. Name
3.1 River to landscape connections and biodiversity, Professor Stuart Bunn, Griffith University
3.2 Managing threats to floodplain biodiversity and indigenous values, Associate Professor Samantha Setterfield, Charles Darwin University
3.3 Biodiversity patterns, conservation planning and resilience of freshwater fauna, Dr Mark Kennard, Griffith University
3.4 Predicting patterns and processes of biodiversity in estuarine and coastal environments of the Alligator Rivers Region using ecohydrological models: assessing climate change impacts, Dr David Williams, Australian Institute of Marine Science
Theme 4: Terrestrial Biodiversity Conservation
No. Name
4.1 Research and management to reverse decline of native mammal fauna, Dr John Woinarski, Charles Darwin University
4.2 Feral cat management on Indigenous lands, Dr Alaric Fisher, Northern Territory Department of Natural Resources, Environment, the Arts and Sport
Theme 5: Biodiversity Monitoring and Reporting
No. Name
5.1 Partnerships and tools to support biodiversity monitoring by Indigenous land and sea managers, Dr Rod Kennett, North Australia Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance
5.2 Terrestrial biodiversity monitoring, Dr Alaric Fisher, Northern Territory Department of Natural Resources, Environment, the Arts and Sport
5.3 Remote sensing methods to map and monitor the condition of coastal habitats and other surrogates for biodiversity, Dr Thomas Schroeder, CSIRO
5.4 Ecogenomic approaches to monitor Kakadu estuaries, Dr Anthony Chariton, Wealth from Oceans, CSIRO

NERP Marine Biodiversity Hub - Leader: Professor Nic Bax

Host organisation/ administrator: University of Tasmania

Governance arrangements: The Marine Biodiversity Hub Steering Committee will consist of major government and industry stakeholders, a member of the NERP Secretariat, an independent chairman elected by the committee, and senior representatives of the major partners. The Hub Director will report to this committee, which will meet twice a year to oversee Hub progress and reporting, and hold an annual strategic review of the Hub. The Steering Committee approve reports to be provided to the NERP Secretariat.

Research partners: CSIRO, Geoscience Australia, Australia Institute of Marine Science, Museum Victoria, The University of Western Australia, and Charles Darwin University.

Other collaborators: An Outside Collaborator Network will be established and chaired by the Hub director. Current collaborators include Northern Territory Fisheries and New South Wales Office of Environment and Heritage. Outside collaborators will be invited to the annual Hub science workshop and to other Hub-led meetings as appropriate. Strategic discussions will be held with stakeholders including the Integrated Marine Observing System, the Australian Fisheries Management Authority and the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association with the aim of identifying additional research opportunities or complementary studies that would enhance Hub outputs and impact.

Funding

(all figures are exclusive of GST)

NERP Marine Biodiversity Hub Funding
NERP funding $11 million  
Co-investment $18.6 million  
Total Hub Investment $29.6 million  
Communications component of NERP funding $1.41 million 12.8%
Administration component of NERP funding $0 0% (ie all from co-investors)

Research Program

Hub mission:

A national collaboration to support the department and other marine stakeholders in improving the evidence-base for decision making for marine biodiversity management through providing a common scientific understanding and approach in this multi–jurisdiction and multi–sector environment. More specifically: to assist the department implement marine bioregional plans; evaluate and report ecosystem health in the Marine Environmental Reporting Framework; assist the management of National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas; improve knowledge of the biodiversity of poorly known areas; apply landscape level approaches to managing listed species; assess potential natural Heritage areas; and manage new infrastructure developments.

Research program description:

The Marine Biodiversity hub will provide scientific information and advice that will support the department in decision making in the marine environment, specifically in implementing and monitoring its marine bioregional plans, developing the National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas, and supporting the information needs of the department in providing key baseline information. This will be accomplished through four tightly integrated national themes, which will allow the Marine Biodiversity Hub to provide consistent scientific data, information and advice to the Commonwealth, States and NT. New survey activity will be focussed off Northern Australia (North to Coral Sea), in recognition of its global marine biodiversity significance, the rapidly increasing pressures facing this region and the paucity of current information.

Research themes:

The Marine Biodiversity Hub research program is structured around the following four themes.

Theme Description Examples of expected benefits
1. National Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Keith Hayes, CSIRO This theme will contribute towards two blue-prints: first, for a sustained national environmental monitoring strategy designed to evaluate marine ecosystem health, and: second, for a sustained monitoring strategy to help manage the Commonwealth Marine Reserve Network (focussing on the Southeast Marine Region). It will facilitate closer liaison between federal agencies such as the department, Bureau of Meteorology, and Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, and state agencies responsible for the management of Marine Protected Areas, to identify the data infrastructure requirements and logistical/statistical constraints of a sustained national marine monitoring strategy. Greater alignment between marine-focused agencies such as the department, Bureau of Meteorology and the Driving Forces Pressures State Impacts Responses, meeting the needs of a sustained national monitoring programme that supports State of the Environment reporting and national accounts reporting for the marine environment. Recommendations for survey design, implementation and analysis for sustained national monitoring of Key Ecological Features and Commonwealth Marine Reserves, relevant to the department.
2. Supporting Management of Marine Biodiversity Tony Smith, CSIRO This theme will provide methods and tools to value marine biodiversity, identify threats and cumulative impacts, and evaluate and provide guidance on the effectiveness of management tools to meet conservation objectives in a multi–jurisdictional and multi–sectoral environment. Tools and options will be designed to add value to existing management processes; including implementing marine bioregional plans, monitoring the Southeast Marine Reserve Network, and assessing and managing listed species under the EPBC Act. Our goal is to provide scientific advice that can be used by conservation and resource management agencies, thus supporting a shared understanding of the environmental and economic values, and options for monitoring and management. Improved management of marine biodiversity arising from improved integration of management arrangements across various sectors operating in the marine environment. For example, improved management of environmental assets arising from coordinated on and off reserve management between the department and Australian Fisheries Management Authority; improved management of the network of Commonwealth Marine Reserves through well-defined quantifiable performance indicators and options for increased stewardship; improved response to cumulative threats impacting the marine environment; new and more efficient landscape-level management of EPBC Act listed species and other conservation values.
3. National Ecosystems Knowledge Brendan Brooke, Geoscience Australia This theme will provide a better understanding of linkages between seabed physical features and ecological processes that sustain important areas for marine biodiversity including Key Ecological Features, estimate and test connectivity between these important areas and those areas being actively managed for biodiversity conservation, and provide the long-term perspective on biodiversity dynamics to inform future management under climate change. The research will support implementation of Marine Bioregional Plans by providing new data, maps and interpretations (e.g. inputs to Marine Conservation Atlas) to inform assessments under the EPBC Act Improved management of seabed physical features based on knowledge of linked ecological processes and areas of high biodiversity. Improved management of the Commonwealth Marine Reserve network based on increased understanding of connectivity between areas, including management units (Commonwealth Marine Reserve and Key Ecological Features). Improved management in face of climate change based on improved understanding of long-term biodiversity dynamics.
4. Regional Biodiversity Discovery to Support Marine Bioregional Plans Julian Caley, Australian Institute of Marine Science This theme will address regional knowledge gaps in Northern Australia, identified as a Departmental priority in recognition of the global marine biodiversity significance of these regions, and the rapidly increasing pressures facing them. A broad suite of physical and biological data will be collected by an interdisciplinary team from AIMS, Geosciences Australia, Museum Victoria, and the University of Western Australia using a diverse set of data collecting methods. Better understanding of patterns and processes structuring Australia's marine biodiversity; improved prediction of biodiversity and connectivity in Northern Australia; increased awareness of the origins and regional significance of Australia's marine biodiversity; this will support implementation of marine bioregional plans and a more effective management of Australia's marine estate.

Research projects:

There are 9 research projects in the hub which are organised under four themes.

Theme 1: National Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting
No. Name
1.1 Collation and analysis of existing data sets, Keith Hayes, CSIRO
1.2 Analysis of approaches for monitoring biodiversity in Commonwealth waters, Keith Hayes, CSIRO
Theme 2: Supporting Management of Marine Biodiversity
No. Name
2.1 Integrating social, economic and environmental values, Sarah Jennings, The University of Tasmania
2.2 Integrating threats, values and assets for management, Piers Dunstan, CSIRO
2.3 Landscape approaches to managing high priority conservation values, Task 1: Tony Smith, CSIRO, Task 2: Roland Pitcher, CSIRO
2.4 Supporting management of listed and rare species, Peter Kyne, Charles Darwin Uni
Theme 3: National Ecosystems Knowledge
No. Name
3.1 Shelf and Canyon Ecosystems — functions and processes, Brendan Brooke, Geoscience Australia
3.2 National Maps of Biodiversity and Connectivity, Tim O'Hara, Museum Victoria
Theme 4: Regional Biodiversity Discovery to Support Marine Bioregional Plans
No. Name
4.1 21-day RV Solander Survey, Julian Caley, Australian Institute of Marine Science

NERP Tropical Ecosystems Hub

Hub Science Leader: Dr Peter Doherty

Host organisation/administrator: Reef and Rainforest Research Centre Pty Ltd

Governance arrangements: A Hub Steering Committee led by the independent chair, Ms Diane Tarte, is providing overall governance. The Committee is responsible for providing advice to the Hub Science Leader and the Hub Administrator on the development of the research plans, and to the Department on the coordination of research, knowledge brokering and uptake of science. Working Groups, which represent each geographic Node within the Hub (Great Barrier Reef, Torres Strait, and Wet Tropics Rainforest), will report directly to the Hub Steering Committee. The Hub Steering Committee will oversee the implementation of the research plans, and monitor progress against milestones.

Research partners: Australian Institute of Marine Science, CSIRO, James Cook University, University of Queensland, Australian National University, Griffith University

Other collaborators: Government agencies (Commonwealth — including Australian Fisheries Management Authority; State — including Queensland Department of Employment, Economic Development, and Innovation; Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management), management authorities (Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Torres Strait Regional Authority, and the Wet Tropics Management Authority), natural resource management bodies, conservation non-government organisations, Indigenous groups, regional industries, Regional Development Associations.

Funding

(all figures are exclusive of GST)

NERP Tropical Ecosystems Hub Funding
NERP funding $28.5 million*  
Co-investment $33.4 million  
Total Hub Investment $61.89 million  
Communications component of NERP funding $2.8 million 10.8% (of $25.8 million)
Administration component of NERP funding $2.96 million 10.4% (of $28.5 million)
*Includes $25.8 million of hub funding, plus $2.7 million of contract administration funding

Research Program

Hub mission:

The Hub will address issues of concern for the management, conservation and sustainable use of the World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef and its catchments, tropical rainforests including the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, and the terrestrial and marine assets underpinning resilient communities in the Torres Strait, through the generation and transfer of world-class research and shared knowledge. This research will be highly relevant, transferred to end-users, publicly available, and value for money.

Research program description:

The Tropical Ecosystems Hub's research program builds on eighteen years of Commonwealth funded research including the Marine and Tropical Research Facility and two Cooperative Research Centres. These investments, including the new Tropical Ecosystems Hub, have and will improve regional environmental decision making and inform national, state and regional stakeholders through better understanding of the status and future trends of key species and ecosystems in Queensland; the social and economic interactions between Queensland communities and their regional environmental assets; the performance of existing management arrangements against their targets; and the options for adaptation and new management approaches to enhance ecological and social resilience in a changing environment.

Research themes:

The Tropical Ecosystems Hub research program is structured around the following three themes.

Theme Description Examples of expected benefits

1. Assessing Ecosystem Condition and Trend

  • Program 1 — Historical and current condition of the Great Barrier Reef, Dr John Pandolfi, University of Queensland
  • Program 2 — Natural Resources of the Torres Strait land and sea, Professor Helene Marsh, James Cook University
  • Program 3 — Condition and trends of North Queensland rainforests, Professor Steve Williams, James Cook University

A clear understanding of the ecological condition and trends of environmental assets of the Great Barrier Reef, the Torres Strait, and the Wet Tropics rainforest is fundamental to ecologically sustainable use of those assets by industry and communities, as well as appropriate management.

Theme 1 is comprised of three Programs, which concentrate on specific components of Queensland's natural and cultural heritage, and will deliver reports on the condition and trends of key ecosystems and resources.

The expected outcomes of this research are highly relevant to the following elements of the portfolio's work: EPBC Act referrals and assessments, species recovery planning, marine environment reporting, State of the Environment reporting, threat abatement planning (including the Australian Pest Animal Strategy), and the Great Barrier Reef Outlook Report (particularly in relation to identified key issues and risks in climate change & water quality, protected species, fisheries impacts and coastal development).

Early warning of Crown of Thorns Starfish outbreaks will also allow localised management options to be considered in a timely manner.

2. Understanding Ecosystem Function and Cumulative Pressures

  • Program 4 — Water quality of the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait — Dr Britta Schaffelke, Australian Institute of Marine Science
  • Program 5 — Cumulative impacts on benthic biodiversity, Dr Katharina Fabricius, Australian Institute of Marine Science
  • Program 6 — Movements and habitat use by marine apex predators, Dr Colin Simpfendorfer, James Cook University
  • Program 7 — Threats to rainforest health, Dr Dan Metcalfe, CSIRO

Theme 2 includes four Programs and builds on research that has identified many of the primary risks and threats to the environmental assets of Queensland. These pressures do not occur in isolation and it is clear that a greater understanding of the cumulative and synergistic impact of these pressures is required for improved management. Changing climate, extreme natural events, changes in natural resource use and population growth are some of the pressures facing these ecosystems.

Understanding these pressures is essential in developing effective management responses that promote ecosystem resilience.

The expected outcomes of this research are highly relevant to the following elements of the portfolio's work: EPBC Act referrals and assessments, species recovery planning, strategic assessment of commercial fisheries, and threat abatement planning including informing the Australian Pest Animal Strategy.

The proposed outcomes are also highly relevant to the Great Barrier Reef Outlook Report's identified key issues and risks: water quality, climate change, coastal development & fisheries impacts, and protected species.

3. Managing for Resilient Tropical Systems

  • Program 8 — Effectiveness of spatial management on the GBR — Dr Hugh Sweatman, Australian Institute of Marine Science
  • Program 9 — Decision support systems for GBR managers — Prof Bob Pressey, James Cook University
  • Program 10 — Socio-economic value of GBR goods and services — Dr Marcus Lane, CSIRO
  • Program 11 — Resilient Torres Strait communities — Dr James Butler, CSIRO
  • Program 12 — Managing for resilience in rainforests — Dr Ro Hill, CSIRO
  • Program 13 — Australia's Tropical Land and Seas (e-ATLAS) — Dr Eric Lawrey, AIMS

Research undertaken within Theme 3 will provide knowledge and options to assist key decision makers in government, industry and the community in managing the complex ecosystems of the Great Barrier Reef, the Wet Tropics rainforests (including the World Heritage Area) and the Torres Strait.

Theme 3 draws on the assessment of ecological condition and trends undertaken in Theme 1 and the improved understanding of ecosystem function and cumulative pressures from Theme 2.

Theme 3 will provide tools and information for evidence-based decision making that address the pressures and sustains resilient ecological, social and economic systems.

The expected outcomes of this research are highly relevant to the Great Barrier Reef Outlook Report's identified key issues and risks: fisheries impacts and the zoning plan.

This research will also feed directly into management effectiveness and ecosystem resilience chapters of the Great Barrier Reef Outlook report; sustainable development in the Torres Strait; management of invasive species in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area; and biosecurity planning to protect Australian ecosystems from species moving through the Torres Strait.

Research projects:

There are a total of 38 research projects in the hub, and 2 communications and knowledge brokering projects, which are organised under thirteen programs, under the three themes outlined above.

Theme 1: Assessing Ecosystem Condition and Trend
No. Name
Program 1 — Historical and current condition of the Great Barrier Reef — Dr John Pandolfi, University of Queensland
1.1 Monitoring status and trends of coral reefs of the GBR, Dr Hugh Sweatman, Australian Institute of Marine Science
1.2 Marine wildlife management in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, Dr Mark Hamann and Prof Helene Marsh, James Cook University
1.3 Characterising the cumulative impacts of global, regional and local stressors on the present and past biodiversity of the Great Barrier Reef, Dr Jian-xin Zhao and Dr John Pandolfi, University of Queensland
Program 2 — Natural Resources of the Torres Strait land and sea, Professor Helene Marsh, James Cook University
2.1 Marine turtles and dugongs of the Torres Strait, Dr Mark Hamann and Professor Helene Marsh, James Cook University
2.2 Mangrove and freshwater habitat status of Torres Strait Islands, Dr Norm Duke and Dr Damien Burrows, James Cook University
2.3 Monitoring the health of Torres Strait coral reefs, Dr Ray Berkelmans, Australian Institute of Marine Science
Program 3 — Condition and trends of North Queensland rainforests — Professor Steve Williams, James Cook University
3.1 Rainforest biodiversity, Professor Steve Williams, James Cook University
3.2 Rainforest refugia and hotspots of plant genetic diversity in the Wet Tropics and Cape York Peninsula, Professor Darren Crayn, James Cook University
3.3 Targeted surveys for missing and critically endangered rainforest frogs in ecotonal areas, and assessment of whether populations are recovering from disease, Dr Robert Puschendorf and Conrad Hoskin, James Cook University
3.4 Monitoring of key vertebrate species, Dr David Westcott, CSIRO
Theme 2: Understanding Ecosystem Function and Cumulative Pressures
No. Name
Program 4 — Water quality of the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait — Dr Britta Schaffelke, Australian Institute of Marine Science
4.1 Tracking coastal turbidity over time and demonstrating the effects of river discharge events on regional turbidity, Dr Katharina Fabricius, Australian Institute of Marine Science
4.2 The chronic effects of pesticides and their persistence in tropical waters, Dr Andrew Negri, Australian Institute of Marine Science
4.3 Ecological risk assessment for water quality of the GBR, Dr Jon Brodie, James Cook University
4.4 Hazard assessment for water quality threats to Torres Strait marine waters, ecosystems and public health, Dr Jon Brodie, James Cook University
Program 5 — Cumulative impacts on benthic biodiversity — Dr Katharina Fabricius, Australian Institute of Marine Science
5.1 Understanding GBR diversity: spatial and temporal dynamics and environmental drivers, Dr Glenn De'ath, Australian Institute of Marine Science
5.2 Combined water quality–climate effects on coral and other reef organisms, Dr Sven Uthicke, Australian Institute of Marine Science
5.3 Vulnerability of seagrass habitats in the GBR to changing coastal environments, Dr Catherine Collier, James Cook University
Program 6 — Movements and habitat use by marine apex predators — Dr Colin Simpfendorfer, James Cook University
6.1 Maximising the benefits of mobile predators to GBR ecosystems: the importance of movement, habitat and environment, Dr Michelle Heupel, Australian Institute of Marine Science
6.2 Drivers of juvenile shark biodiversity and abundance in inshore ecosystems of the GBR, Dr Colin Simpfendorfer, James Cook University
6.3 Critical seabird foraging locations and trophic relationships for the GBR, Dr Brad Congdon, James Cook University
Program 7 — Threats to rainforest health — Dr Dan Metcalfe, CSIRO
7.1 Fire & rainforests, Dr Dan Metcalfe, CSIRO
7.2 Invasive species risks and responses in the Wet Tropics, Dr Helen Murphy, CSIRO
7.3 Climate change and the impacts of extreme events on Australia's Wet Tropics biodiversity, Dr Justin Welbergen, Australian National University
Theme 3: Managing for Resilient Tropical Systems
No. Name
Program 8 — Effectiveness of spatial management on the GBR — Dr Hugh Sweatman, Australian Institute of Marine Science
8.1 Monitoring the ecological effects of GBR zoning plan on mid and outer shelf reefs, Dr Hugh Sweatman, Australian Institute of Marine Science
8.2 Assessing the long–term effects of management zoning on inshore reef of the GBR, Professor Garry Russ, James Cook University
8.3 Significance of no–take marine protected areas to regional recruitment and population persistence on the GBR, Professor Geoff Jones, James Cook University
Program 9 — Decision support systems for GBR managers — Professor Bob Pressey, James Cook University
9.1 Decision support tools to identify (and map) bleaching resistant areas within the GBRMP, Dr Ken Anthony, Australian Institute of Marine Science
9.2 Design and implementation of management strategy evaluation for the GBR, Dr Cathy Dichmont, CSIRO
9.3 Prioritising management actions for GBR islands, Prof Bob Pressey, James Cook University
9.4 Spatial planning for coastal development in the GBR region, Prof Bob Pressey, James Cook University
Program 10 — Socio-economic value of GBR goods and services — Dr Marcus Lane, CSIRO
10.1 Social and economic long–term monitoring program, Dr Nadine Marshall, CSIRO
10.2 Socio-economic system and reef resilience, Dr Natalie Stoeckl, James Cook University
Program 11 — Resilient Torres Strait communities — Dr James Butler, CSIRO
11.1 Building resilient communities for Torres Strait futures, Dr James Butler, CSIRO
11.2 Improved approaches for the detection and prevention of wildlife diseases in the Torres Strait, Dr Sue Laurance, James Cook University
Program 12 — Managing for resilience in rainforests — Dr Ro Hill, CSIRO
12.1 Indigenous peoples and protected areas, Dr Ro Hill, CSIRO
12.2 Harnessing natural regeneration for cost-effective rainforest restoration, Professor Carla Catterall, Griffith University and Dr Luke Shoo, University of Queensland
12.3 Relative social and economic values of residents and tourists in the WTWHA, Dr Natalie Stoeckl, James Cook University
12.4 Governance, planning and the effective application of emerging ecosystem service markets: climate change adaptation and landscape resilience, Dr Allan Dale, James Cook University
Program 13 — Australia's Tropical Land and Seas (e-ATLAS) — Dr Eric Lawrey, AIMS
13.1 e-Atlas (GBR), Dr Eric Lawrey, Australian Institute of Marine Science
13.2 Torres Strait e-atlas — a data platform for resource managers, researchers and the Torres Strait community, Dr Eric Lawrey, Australian Institute of Marine Science

Contacts

National Environmental Research Program
Department of the Environment
GPO Box 787
Canberra ACT 2601
Phone: 02 6274 2589
Email: nerp@environment.gov.au