This project will deliver the first comprehensive assessment of the socio-economic status of the ecosystems, industries and communities of Spencer Gulf, which is South Australia’s most valuable marine ecosystem. The ecological, economic and social indicators established will provide a basis for evaluating the benefits and impacts of current and future activities within and around the gulf. The approaches developed in the project will be transferable to other ecosystems. Maps developed during the project will allow stakeholders, including potential investors, to efficiently obtain essential information on the environmental characteristics, existing uses and social values of sites throughout the gulf. These tools will help to streamline the preparation of applications for new developments. The final report will identify opportunities to enhance future socio-economic assessments of the gulf and further integrate the management of South Australia’s marine ecosystems.
Undertaking an integrated assessment of the ecosystems, industries and communities of Spencer Gulf is new science. The Australian Commonwealth and South Australian State Governments aspire to ecosystem-based management of marine systems, but this approach has not been operationalised in any jurisdiction. This project will address this policy driver by developing ecological, economic and social indicators for Spencer Gulf that characterise the key features of the system and provide a framework against which future assessment of the ecosystem and its industries and communities can be undertaken. For example, indices will be developed for measuring inter-annual variations in the connectivity of the gulf with shelf waters to determine flushing capacity. Similarly, indices will be established for measuring the effects of climate change. Socio-ecological data will be used to integrate human dimensions into indices. Furthermore, a trophodynamic model that has previously been developed for the gulf will be used to establish indicators of ecosystem health. Historical data-sets and model simulations will be used as a basis for developing target and trigger reference points for each indicator which can be used to guide future decisions regarding management of activities within the gulf. Key knowledge gaps impeding assessment and management of the gulf’s socio-ecological systems will also be identified.
The most exciting new science in this project comes from the integration of information from a wide range of disciplines to inform assessment and management of the system. The project will distil the complex scientific information from multiple agencies into a clear concise format that can be used by policy makers. Technical information (metadata, methods etc) underpinning the science will be available, documented, and sit behind the front end summaries for future use/application. Without integrating this knowledge, we cannot understand how to maximize benefits to the South Australian community from the utilization of Spencer Gulf. While this project will not develop the decision support tools needed to quantitatively assess the tradeoffs and cumulative effects of future developments, it will provide the framework against which the assessments can be undertaken, and is the essential first step towards the development of these tools.
The outcomes of this project will assist the South Australian Government to achieve a number of economic priorities, including “unlocking the full potential of South Australia’s resources, energy and renewable assets” and “premium food and wine produced in our clean environment and exported to the world”.
Specific outputs will include:
The new set of social, economic and ecological indicators that this project will develop from data currently held by a wide range of government agencies, research bodies and other stakeholders will provide a baseline and framework for assessing and managing the impacts, interactions and cumulative effects of current and future developments in Spencer Gulf. It will also allow existing monitoring efforts undertaken by a range of stakeholders to be better integrated, allowing duplication to be eliminated, and future monitoring efforts to be directed to where they can be of most benefit. Perhaps most importantly, it will provide a basis for understanding and evaluating the likely impacts of new developments (e.g. a desalination plant) on other stakeholders and the ecosystem. The approach developed in this study will also provide a blueprint for undertaking future assessments of other marine ecosystems off South Australia, such as Gulf St Vincent, the Great Australian Bight and the Bonney Coast.