Achieving policy outcomes in land–sea conservation planning

CBCS Chief Investigator Dr Carissa Klein continued in 2019 with her record of achieving influential policy outcomes in land-sea conservation planning through outstanding publishing and collaborations with government agencies, both domestically and internationally.

Her work is funded through grants from the Australian Research Council (Discovery and Linkage), Science for Nature and People Partnership, National Centre for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, WWF-Australia and the Wildlife Conservation Society – Fiji.

Catchment protection in Fiji

One key example of how Carissa’s team has influenced conservation policy is in her work in Fiji, in collaboration with The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). Outcomes of land-sea prioritisations (Klein et al. 2012, Eco Apps; Klein et al. 2014, Mar Pol) were used to redefine priority forest conservation areas for Fiji that were endorsed by the National Protected Areas Committee and National Environment Council. These national priority areas are used to help direct conservation investment into the most important sites in Fiji for achieving a representative network of terrestrial conservation areas that also provide benefits to downstream ecosystems and people. Results from integrated land–sea fisheries analyses (Brown et al. 2017 Sci Rep & Mar Eco Pro Series) were used to inform the design of the Bua Province Integrated Coastal Management Plan. This helped stakeholders better understand the importance of catchment management, and which catchments are the most critical for protection.

From forestry to healthy reefs

In 2019, Carissa’s former postdoctoral research fellow Dr Amelia Wenger continued to work with WCS to develop this work in the context of Kolombangara Island, Solomon Islands. Amelia and colleagues did scenario planning and produced awareness materials about potential impacts of logging for rangers and local conservation organisation, which were used in a campaign to develop protected area for the forests above 400 m (Wenger et al. 2018 Enviro Res Let; Wenger et al. 2020, J Applied Eco). They found that the area of healthy coral reef doubles when best-practice forestry management in the Solomon Islands is followed, but only when less than 10% of the forest is cleared.

Making good decisions for conservation

Carissa’s team has developed numerous quantitative models that predict how various terrestrial land-use activities (agriculture, forestry) impact coastal ecosystems and marine species to inform conservation and management decisions.

The team uses decision science to determine the most cost-effective strategies for conserving coastal ecosystems, answering important conservation questions such as: Should we protect or restore the land or sea to preserve sea grass?; and Where is the best place for developing agriculture or forestry to minimise negative impacts on coral reefs?

Carissa and her colleagues synthesise research, develop planning guidelines and produce quantitative tools to help conservation planners and natural resource managers make the best decisions they can to protecting marine biodiversity around the world.


Brown, C.J., Jupiter, S.D., Albert, S., Anthony, K.R.N., Hamilton, R.J., Fredston‐Hermann, A., Halpern, B.S., Lin, H.‐Y., Maina, J., Mangubhai, S., Mumby, P.J., Possingham, H.P., Saunders, M.I., Tulloch, V., Wenger, A., Klein, C.J. 2019. A guide to modelling priorities for managing land‐based impacts on coastal ecosystems. Journal of Applied Ecology, 56(5):1106-1116.

Wenger, A., Harris, D., Weber, S., Vaghi, F., Nand, Y., Naisilisili, W., Hughes, A., Delevaux, J., Klein, C., Watson, J., Mumby, P., Jupiter, S. 2020. Best-practice forestry management delivers diminishing returns for coral reefs with increased land-clearing. Journal of Applied Ecology, in press.

Photo: Solomon Islands, Amelia Wenger

Project members

Associate Professor Carissa Klein

ARC Future Fellow
School of the Environment
Deputy Director - Advancement
Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science

Dr Amelia Wenger

Senior Research Fellow
School of the Environment
Associate Conservation Scientist, Wildlife Conservation Society