This theme encompasses many different facets of research across STEMM, the social sciences and humanities, including the sustainability of natural and modified ecosystems in the face of societal development and climate change, climate change science, adaptation and mitigation, mining and its corresponding global environmental challenges, sustainability and the circular economy.

PhD projects

7. Restoration of marine coastal environments for climate change adaptation and mitigation

UQ academic lead

Professor Kerrie Wilson, Director of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions

Exeter academic lead

Professor Ian J Bateman, Professor of Environmental Economics, Centre for Social and Economic Research on the Global Environment (CSERGE)

Project description

An exciting multi-disciplinary PhD project is available on the topic of restoring marine coastal environments. This project will deliver new knowledge and decision support capacity by:

  1. drawing on natural capital approaches to assess the nature and value of the ecosystem services generated by successful restoration activities
  2. identifying marine restoration actions that will maximise the return-on-investment for both climate change adaptation and mitigation.

The legacy of this cutting-edge project will be improved capacity to transition restoration efforts in marine coastal environments from the status quo of small-scale experimental projects to socially, economically, and ecologically meaningful large-scale endeavours.

The research could entail several phases.

  1. Phase 1 could focus on quantification of the ecosystem service benefits of marine restoration actions, with a particular focus on the ‘downstream’ economic benefits to marine industries including fisheries and coastal tourism. Collaborative opportunities exist to link this first phase of the project with Plymouth Marine Laboratory who are leading modelling work which links estuarine condition with ecosystem service outputs including fishery stocks and water quality.
  2. Phase 2 would explore the costs and feasibility of marine restoration actions through a rigorous systematic review of the published and unpublished literature.
  3. Phase 3 could employ an expert elicitation process with marine coastal restoration practitioners globally to ascertain the costs and relative success of on-ground, unpublished, restoration projects.

Extensive data from previous research undertaken at UQ on the cost and feasibility of marine coastal restoration activities globally is also available. Through collaboration with The Nature Conservancy, the value of re-gaining ecosystem services through restoration activities will be informed by close engagement with the “Atlas of Ocean Wealth” project.

A current gap for informing on-ground marine restoration activities is a decision support tool that is applicable for a diversity of restoration actions for a range of marine habitat types, including coral reefs, seagrass, mangroves, saltmarsh, and oyster reefs. As such, an important practical outcome of this PhD project could be the development of a transferable decision-support tool to identify the ecosystem service benefits of marine coastal restoration and the most cost-effective restoration interventions to achieve those benefits. The data obtained from the proposed project could then be inputted to this integrated and spatially-explicit marine spatial planning tool to develop the first spatial analysis of priority locations for marine restoration activities globally.

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