Australasian differences in the perceptions of stakeholders to ecological engineering of coastal infrastructure

Karen Alexander5, Dr Beth Strain1,2, Sarah Kienker1,3, Rebecca Morris1,3,4, Karen Alexander5, Peter Steinberg1,2, Ross Coleman1,3

1Sydney Insitute Of Marine Science, Darlington, Australia, 2Evolution and Ecology Research Centre, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, Sydney, Australia, 3EICC , University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia, 4Biosciences, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia, 5IMAS, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia


A global push is afoot, to develop multifunctional coastal infrastructures through ecological engineering. Research in this area is driven by scientists and managers, but often the views of the primary users (the general public) are not considered. We used an online survey and mapping exercise to investigate the differences in the perceptions of scientists and managers and the general public to ecological engineering. The surveys were conducted across 3 Australian harbours with different levels of modification and other environmental conditions, to test the following hypotheses: 1) scientists and managers will be more supportive of ecological engineering than the general public; and 2) scientists and managers will identify seawalls in polluted or degraded sites as priority areas for ecological engineering. The majority of respondents were supportive of ecological engineering, irrespective of their occupation or harbour location. These respondents identified seawalls and boating infrastructure, in busy transport hubs (i.e. Circular Quay, Port Melbourne and Salamanca Wharf) or polluted areas as priority sites for ecological engineering. There were however, significant differences between locations, in the respondents’ key priorities (i.e. biodiversity, coastal protection or pollution) for ecological engineering. Greater consideration of these site specific differences is essential for effective management of coastal infrastructure in urban harbours.


Karen Alexander is an interdisciplinary Research Fellow in the Centre for Marine Socioecology at the University of Tasmania.  She has wide-ranging interests, centring on marine governance and stewardship. Karen specialises in issues around the transition to a green (blue) economy and more recently, her research has focused on social license for sectors such as offshore renewable energy and aquaculture.