Decision-making scenarios for South Australian coastal ecosystems

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This week’s featured research article has just been published in Ecosystem Services by Flinders University researchers and examines scenario planning for ecosystem services for areas of the South Australian coastline.

This paper presents the process for developing plausible scenarios for the Barker Inlet and Port River Estuary region (BIPE) as a tool to aid decision making. The coastal wetlands in the BIPE region are identified as hosting conservation hotspots due to both the existence and extent of an array of coastal wetlands, and supratidal habitats and species. The region is a characteristically flat and low-lying low-energy coast with meso-tidal range and has large interconnected areas of seagrass meadows, mudflats, fringing mangroves and coastal saltmarsh supporting a diverse range of aquatic and terrestrial fauna. In addition, the saltmarshes provide an important buffer between land and aquatic environments.

Scenario planning models the effect of changes to land use based on social, environment and economic variables. Scenario planning can be seen as an experimental learning approach that can improve social learning for proactive decision making in response to complex issues on coastal governance. A scenario planning workshop for the BIPE region was conducted over four days from 8–11 February 2016. Fifty-five people attended the workshop representing stakeholders from State Government (21 participants), Local Government (5), Industry (2), Universities (18), NGOs (3) and other community groups (6).

The workshop commenced with context setting presentations on the ecology of the BIPE region, the ecosystem services relevant to the area, and anticipated future developments in the region.The creation of four scenarios and future value of ecosystem services to 2050, provides a solid starting point for the development of a decision-support system for this coastal region. However, further consultation with general public and decision makers in government agencies, industry, NGOs and community groups is required for the possibility of their inclusion in local and state level planning.

The paper can be downloaded here (or email jennie.fluin@sa.gov.au for a copy).