Landscape Ecology

, Volume 25, Issue 8, pp 1201–1218 | Cite as

Integrating social and ecological knowledge for planning sustainable land- and sea-scapes: experiences from the Great Barrier Reef region, Australia

  • Iris C. Bohnet
Research Article


The integration of social and ecological knowledge has been identified as one of the key issues and research priorities in landscape ecology. However, research into the tools and processes that support knowledge integration for planning sustainable land- and sea-scapes is largely lacking. To fill this gap, Bohnet and Smith (Landsc Urban Plan 80:137–152, 2007) developed a social-ecological planning framework based on a holistic landscape concept which I applied in the Tully–Murray basin to test the framework’s transferability and effectiveness for knowledge integration in a water quality improvement planning context in the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) region, Australia. In this paper I present the context in which the Tully Water Quality Improvement Plan (WQIP) was developed, the tools and processes applied during the three planning stages to achieve knowledge integration, and the results from this exercise. I then discuss the transferability and effectiveness of the framework using criteria identified to assess collaborative planning processes, outputs and outcomes, such as collaborative science and social and political capital. While many social outcomes such as the creation of partnerships between multiple-stakeholders, including Traditional Owners, local farmers, industry, government, community groups, schools, and the wider public, have been achieved, the research also highlights some of the challenges related to multiple-stakeholder relations. Further research into the roles and responsibilities of multiple-stakeholders for knowledge integration in developing and managing sustainable land- and sea-scapes is recommended.


Community engagement Environmental values Scenario planning Participatory research Sustainable development Transdisciplinary Interdisciplinary Adaptive co-management 



I would like to thank all participants of this research for their insights and local knowledge they provided, in particular the members of the Tully–Murray Floodplain Program and the socio-cultural action team for their support and interest in the research. Thanks to Clarence Kinjun and Karl Haug for fieldwork assistance, Petina Pert and Caroline Bruce for map preparation and Frederieke Kroon, Brian Roberts and Rosemary Hill for scientific discussion. James Butler, Leanne Cullen, Marcus Lane and two anonymous reviewers provided invaluable comments on earlier versions of this manuscript. This project was funded by CSIRO’s Water for a Healthy Country Flagship and Terrain NRM Ltd through the Coastal Catchment Initiative (CCI) under the Natural Heritage Trust.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CSIRO Sustainable EcosystemsCairnsAustralia

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