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Repair and revitalisation of Australia׳s tropical estuaries and coastal wetlands: Opportunities and constraints for the reinstatement of lost function and productivity


  • Sheaves, Marcus
  • Brookes, Justin
  • Coles, Rob
  • Freckelton, Marnie
  • Groves, Paul
  • Johnston, Ross
  • Winberg, Pia


Tropical fisheries are in decline around world as a result of diverse anthropogenic threats. These threats are intimately linked to biodiversity and conservation values because of the heavy dependence of both fisheries and high value marine and coastal wetlands on coastal ecosystem health. Consequently, if the widespread degradation of coastal ecosystems can be halted and remediated, there are substantial benefits to fisheries output, ecosystem resilience, food security, livelihoods, recreation and the protection of ecological assets of national and global significance. The extent, intactness and quality of Australia׳s tropical coastal ecosystems has declined markedly since European settlement, due to the cumulative impact of many small encroachments and local barrier construction on the extent and productivity of coastal wetlands, mangroves and seagrass meadows. Additionally, coastal ecosystem dependent biota has been excluded from large areas of critical habitats. Despite these changes, coastal fisheries show no clear declines that could not be explained by changes in effort. This lack of detectable decline is probably partly attributable to the short history of available fisheries catch data. However, it is also likely that it reflects the offsetting of lost natural productivity by greatly increased anthropogenic nutrient loads; a substantial problem as governments are committed to large scale, long term efforts to reduce discharges of nutrients to coastal waters. This possibility underlines the importance of rejuvenating lost coastal productivity. Evaluation of past remediation efforts show that documented success is rare, due to a complex of factors including ineffective prioritisation, a lack of necessary knowledge and resources, and inefficient monitoring and evaluation. Past experiences from Australia׳s tropics and around the world, together with current ecological understanding, suggests some generally desirable characteristics to enhance the likelihood of successful remediation and repair actions.

Suggested Citation

  • Sheaves, Marcus & Brookes, Justin & Coles, Rob & Freckelton, Marnie & Groves, Paul & Johnston, Ross & Winberg, Pia, 2014. "Repair and revitalisation of Australia׳s tropical estuaries and coastal wetlands: Opportunities and constraints for the reinstatement of lost function and productivity," Marine Policy, Elsevier, vol. 47(C), pages 23-38.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:marpol:v:47:y:2014:i:c:p:23-38
    DOI: 10.1016/j.marpol.2014.01.024

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Taleb, Nassim Nicholas, 2007. "Black Swans and the Domains of Statistics," The American Statistician, American Statistical Association, vol. 61, pages 198-200, August.
    2. Grech, A. & Coles, R. & Marsh, H., 2011. "A broad-scale assessment of the risk to coastal seagrasses from cumulative threats," Marine Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(5), pages 560-567.
    3. Peter A. Diamond & Jerry A. Hausman, 1994. "Contingent Valuation: Is Some Number Better than No Number?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 8(4), pages 45-64, Fall.
    4. Kay, Paul & Edwards, Anthony C. & Foulger, Miles, 2009. "A review of the efficacy of contemporary agricultural stewardship measures for ameliorating water pollution problems of key concern to the UK water industry," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 99(2-3), pages 67-75, February.
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    Cited by:

    1. Waltham, Nathan J & Sheaves, Marcus, 2015. "Expanding coastal urban and industrial seascape in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area: Critical need for coordinated planning and policy," Marine Policy, Elsevier, vol. 57(C), pages 78-84.


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