FRDC-DCCEE: changing currents in marine biodiversity governance and management: responding to climate change

Project Number:



University of Tasmania (UTAS)

Principal Investigator:

Michael Lockwood

Project Status:


FRDC Expenditure:





This project addresses the significant need identified in the NARP to review agility of conservation governance and management. The likely effects of human-induced climate change on marine biodiversity raise questions about adaptive capacity of current governance and management systems and their ability to support the resilience of marine biota. Governance directly influences whether resilience is undermined, preserved or strengthened (McCook et al. 2007). As noted in a 2009 House of Representatives Standing Committee report: “Given the projected severe impacts on the coastal zone from climate change … and the urgent need for adaptation strategies and resilience building, any hesitation in addressing the issues concerning governance arrangements for the coastal zone could have severe consequences”. Furthermore, the “cornerstone of future success is an adaptive governance structure in which ecosystem management understanding is operationalized in day-to-day activities” (Barnes & McFadden 2008, p. 391). These conclusions point to a need for coherent and adaptive systems of marine biodiversity governance, planning and management. By providing understandings and strategies for this ‘future success’, we will answer the following high and medium priority NARP questions: 1. How should conservation managers and planners adapt their practices to ameliorate climate change risks and enhance adaptation? 2. What intervention strategies addressing nature conservation outcomes will increase system resilience? 3. How will governance for the conservation of marine biodiversity need to change to adapt to climate change impacts? 4. What are the barriers to implementing adaptation and effective policy responses? The project will engage with conservation planning instituted under the National Oceans Policy, examining institutional governance, decision-making processes and types of instruments being deployed. Our research also addresses priorities established in state strategies – in NSW for example, the discussion paper on a new biodiversity strategy identified a need to refine adaptation planning and integrated management of marine reserves.


1. To identify the requirements for adaptive marine biodiversity conservation governance and management in the context of climate change

2. To assess how well current regimes, with a particular focus on marine protected areas, meet these requirements, and determine any necessary changes

3. To identify alternatives to current regimes that are likely to enhance adaptivity and assess their governance and management effectiveness

4. To offer advice to governance and management authorities on how regime reform might be achieved

Final Report - 2010-532-DLD - Changing currents in marine biodiversity governance and management: responding to climate change

Final Report
Author(s):Michael Lockwood
Date Published:October 2013
Principal Investigator: Michael Lockwood

Keywords: Governance; adaptation; marine biodiversity; climate change


Outcomes achieved to date

There is limited capacity in this type of project to generate immediate and demonstrable outcomes. We can only identify influences on ongoing processes as indicators of potential future outcomes.

We identified requirements for adaptive marine biodiversity conservation governance in the context of climate change. These requirements have influenced how governing agency personnel think about governance design. Developing ‘best practice’ adaptive governance requirements has provided a benchmark that can be used to assess current arrangements and support their reform.

The NSW Marine Estate process and Tasmania’s Draft Natural Heritage Strategy have drawn on the project’s research workshops and reports.

Proposals for changes to current arrangements have been judged by government agency staff as likely to enhance adaptive capacity, and thereby enhance marine biodiversity conservation outcomes.

We have received positive responses to our academic publications arising from the research, with several colleagues indicating that our work has influenced their thinking about adaptive governance and governance assessment methods.

We expect the influence of our work will continue to be evident, particularly as windows of opportunity for adopting our proposals arise, and as our findings are communicated through our recently-prepared policy advisory notes.​

Summaries for Policymakers:



East Coast Tasmania: