Integrated Catchment Planning PDF Print E-mail

Integrated catchment-to-coast planning: data, decision support, and governance


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Project overview


The working group will tackle the difficult problem of reconciling multiple objectives in managing coastal catchments. These objectives typically include biodiversity conservation, maintaining ecosystem services, achieving river-mouth targets for water quality, and promoting development and livelihoods. The group will involve experts in modeling and governance from James Cook and Charles Darwin Universities, and importantly, two management representatives from each of four diverse study catchments in northern Australia: the Wet Tropics (north Queensland), Gilbert (western Queensland), Daly (Northern Territory), and Fitzroy (Western Australian Kimberley).

The group will be linked to two 3.5-year research projects funded under the National Environment Research Program (NERP), both directed at integrating data, modeling, governance, and management in the study regions. The ACEAS working group will play a major role in shaping the direction of these projects, and ACEAS funding will make it possible to link managers and scientists from all four catchments.

The main aims of the working group are to:

1. Design a decision-making framework for catchment-to-coast planning in the four catchments;
2. Identify sources of data for synthesis and modeling and advise on data limitations;
3. Advise on approaches to modeling threatening processes, water quality, and costs and effectiveness of management actions;
4. Design an approach to analyzing the governance of the four catchments to understand constraints on and opportunities for more efficient, cooperative management; and
5. Design a generic implementation strategy for catchment-to-coast planning and adapt it to the socioeconomic and governance characteristics of each of the four catchments.

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The lower reaches of the Gilbert River, one of the group’s study areas, as it flows into the Gulf of Carpentaria.


For further enquiries about this group please contact the Principal Investigator, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


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Products and outcomes



Several papers have been produced by this group.


Adams, V., Álvarez-Romero J. G., Carwardine J., Cattarino L., Hermoso V., Kennard M., Linke S., Pressey R. L. and Stoeckl N. (2014) Planning across freshwater and terrestrial realms: co-benefits and tradeoffs between conservation actions. Conservation Letters 7(5): 425-440.


Álvarez-Romero J.G., Adams V.M., Pressey R.L., Douglas M., Dale A.P., Augé A.A., Ball D., Childs J., Digby M., Dobbs R., Gobius N., Hinchley D., Lancaster I., Maughan M., Perdrisat I. (2015) Integrated cross-realm planning: a decision-makers perspective. Biological Conservation doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2015.07.003


Dale A., Vella K., Pressey R.L., Brodie J., Yorkston H., and Potts R. (2013) A method for risk analysis across governance systems: a Great Barrier Reef case study. Environmental Research Letters 8: 015037. Doi: 10.1088/1748-9326/8/1/015037


Dale A., Pressey R. L., Adams V. M., Álvarez-Romero J. G., Digby M., Dobbs R., Douglas M. M., Augé A., Maughan M., Childs J., Hinchley D., Lancaster I., Perdrisat I. and Gobius N. (2014) Catchment management governance in northern Australia: a preliminary evaluation. Journal of Economic and Social Policy 16(1), Art 2.


Final report

Final report available for download

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Workshop Reports



Workshop 1 Report (12-16 March 2012)

Our first meeting established discussions and began collaboration between scientists and managers from five regions across northern Australia involved in two large projects funded by the National Environmental Research Program (NERP). One project, through the NERP Northern Australia Hub centred at Charles Darwin University, deals with integrated catchment management in three northern catchments: the Gilbert (Queensland Gulf country), Daly (south of Darwin) and Fitzroy (Kimberley, Western Australia). The other project, through the NERP Tropical Ecosystems Hub centred in Townsville and Cairns, will produce alternative development scenarios for the Great Barrier Reef coast and estimate the impacts of these scenarios on selected ecosystems and species. This project was represented by the Terrain (Wet Tropics) and Cape York Natural Resource Management (NRM) bodies.

The meeting, and the entire working group, was intended to add value to the NERP projects by developing perspectives, articulated as journal papers, that:

1. Are beyond the thematic scope of the individual NERP projects;
2. Rely on building collaborative relationships that would not have existed without ACEAS support;
3. Can only be produced by bringing together managers from the five regions to interact intensively in a structured way; and
4. Draw on reviews of data, decision-support needs, discussion of perspectives on planning processes, and analyses of governance across regions that are diverse in physical, biological, social and political characteristics.

In the lead-up to our first meeting, the composition of the working group altered somewhat because of last-minute changes in availability of people previously invited. The final suite of participants will remain stable for the next two meetings.

Bob Pressey James Cook University PI
Michael Douglas Charles Darwin University Co-PI
Allan Dale James Cook University Co-PI,
Cape York NRM rep
Vanessa Adams Charles Darwin University Science team
Jorge Alvarez-Romero James Cook University Science team
Michael Digby Northern Gulf Resource Management Group Gilbert rep
Kathryn Boynton Northern Gulf Resource Management Group Gilbert rep
John Childs Daly River Management Advisory Committee Daly rep
Ian Lancaster NT Department of NREtAS Daly rep
Rebecca Dobbs Univ WA, WA Dept Water Fitzroy rep
Ian Perdrisat Nykina Mangala Native Title Fitzroy rep
David Hinchley Terrain NRM Terrain NRM rep


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Back row, L-R: Michael Douglas, Ian Lancaster, Ian Perdrisat, Bob Pressey, Kathryn Boynton, Jorge Alvarez-Romero, John Childs, Allan Dale. Front row, L-R: Rebecca Dobbs, David Hinchley, Michael Digby and Vanessa Adams.

We began the meeting with overview presentations on each of the five regions, followed by discussion of common or distinctive issues. Over the succeeding days the meeting covered:

Work on a journal paper describing a framework or operational model for integrated (multi-objective) catchment planning with extensive discussion of a conceptual model that shows key elements (and links between them) for the process of integrated planning;

Work on a journal paper on governance analysis across northern Australia, using the five regions as examples. This exercise included a rapid assessment during the meeting of the key aspects of NRM governance within these five regions;

Presentations on examples of spatial planning to real world problems, with discussion of applicability to the five regions Breakout groups on the three states/territories to discuss requirements for and challenges in spatial planning, covering six topics:

1. Reasons why spatial planning is needed, and the factors behind this need
2. Data requirements
3. Requirements for engaging with stakeholders
4. Required features of decision-support tools
5. Policy constraints on and opportunities for spatial planning
6. Other constraints on application and uptake of spatial planning

On the final day, for each of the five regions, we discussed next steps for the two NERP projects.

The meeting was highly successful in laying the ground for further work, both in subsequent meetings and out of session. It was also highly successful in building a strong sense of common purpose and camaraderie between the participants. A first assessment of available spatial datasets (and key datasets required for spatial analyses) was also undertaken. The science team has since made arrangements to visit, or revisit, each of the regions.


An associated web site:


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Workshop 2 Report (22-26 October 2012)

Our second meeting continued discussions on three major research themes established during our first ACEAS meeting:


1. Developing a conceptual framework for integrated catchment-to-coast planning
2. Rapid governance assessment across northern Australia
3. Developing guidelines for translating plans to on-ground actions.


We began the meeting with a review of the progress for ongoing studies (including stakeholder engagement activities, data compilation and preparation, ongoing spatial analyses, and next steps) in the four study regions: Great Barrier Reef coastal zone, Gilbert River catchment (Queensland, Northern Gulf), Daly River catchment (Northern Territory, south of Darwin), and Fitzroy River catchment (Kimberley, Western Australia). Over the succeeding days the meeting covered:


- Further exploration of data for study regions and initial spatial analyses;
- Demonstration of existing decision-support tools and modelling approaches to support planning, including: (1) Marxan, to evaluate trade-offs between conservation and agriculture expansion in the Daly River catchment; (2) SedNet, to assess changes in water quality associated with land use change; and (3) a prototype software used in the Daly River catchment to integrate knowledge in the form of flexible management scenario evaluation functionality to support water planners, managers and advisory bodies;
- Continued work on a journal paper describing a framework or operational model for integrated (multi-objective) catchment-to-coast planning, with extensive discussion and refinement of a conceptual diagram that shows key elements (and links between them) for the process of integrated planning. This conversation included a discussion of the diverse objectives, the potential difficulties for decision-makers, and the strategies and tools to deal with trade-offs;
- Continued work on a journal paper on governance analysis across northern Australia, using the four regions as examples. This included refining the previously conducted rapid assessment of the key aspects of NRM governance within these regions;
- Methods for a conservation and development plan for the Daly catchment, with goals and objectives identified in collaboration with a wide variety of stakeholders;
- Presentations on the development of land-use scenarios for the Great Barrier Reef catchments;
- Developing a generalised framework for an implementation strategy for regional plans (this will be further developed at the April 2013 meeting, and then refined at an accepted symposium at the International Conference on Conservation Biology in Baltimore, July 2013).
- Developing a protocol to undertake a study (using northern Australia as case study) to explore the potential of using social network analysis to better understand governance arrangements in place for natural resource management (NRM) and its potential application in regional conservation planning. This included a focus group discussion for each of the study regions to develop a preliminary list of relevant organisations and depict potential network structures (surveys for network analysis being refined in February 2013 to roll out in the four regions in the coming months).


The meeting was highly successful in progressing the two journal papers that were started in the first meeting (i.e. operational model for integrated catchment planning and rapid governance assessment of northern Australia). Initial spatial analyses for each of the study regions, aimed at identifying priority areas for conservation management, were conducted and discussed. The final day focused on the third theme “how to connect plans to on-ground actions”. This included discussing what an operational model for implementation strategies would look like. Four regional focus groups also convened and reported back on the design of a governance network analysis to be conducted in each of the case study regions. The pilot study for this analysis will be conducted prior to the third ACEAS meeting so that initial results can be discussed by the catchment representatives. The science team has continued visits planned to each of the regions.

The working group members (Picture) included the first meeting participants (with two apologies, although both will attend the April 2013 meeting), as well as two new members of the science team (Amélie Augé and Mirjam Maughan) and Derek Ball, representing Reef Catchments NRM in north Queensland. Morena Mills attended to help facilitate the discussion on governance network analysis.


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Integrated catchment planning Report of Workshop 2 (22-26 October 2012)
Attendees Left to right: Derek Ball (Reef Catchments NRM, Mackay-Whitsundays rep.: new member), Bob Pressey (James Cook University, PI), Ian Perdrisat (Madjulla Inc., Fitzroy rep.), Amélie Augé (James Cook University, Science team: new member), Kathryn Boynton (Northern Gulf Resource Management Group, Gilbert rep.), Jorge Alvarez-Romero (James Cook University, Science team), Vanessa Adams (Charles Darwin University, Science team), Ian Lancaster (Northern Territory Department of NRETAS, now KSI Land and Water Planning, Daly rep), Allan Dale (James Cook University, Co-PI/Cape York NRM), Michael Digby (Northern Gulf Resource Management Group, Gilbert rep.), Mirjiam Maughan (James Cook University, Science team: new member), Rebecca Dobbs (University of Western Australia, Fitzroy rep.). Apologies: John Childs (Daly River Management Advisory Committee, Daly rep.) and Michael Douglas (Charles Darwin University) Absent: Morena Mills (visitor)


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Last Updated on Friday, 24 July 2015 15:35