Building blue infrastructure: Assessing the key environmental issues and priority areas for ecological engineering initiatives in Australia's metropolitan embayments
Ecological engineering principles are increasingly being applied to develop multifunctional artificial structures or rehabilitated habitats in coastal areas. Ecological engineering initiatives are primarily driven by marine scientists and coastal managers, but often the views of key user groups, which can strongly influence the success of projects, are not considered. We used an online survey and participatory mapping exercise to investigate differences in priority goals, sites and attitudes towards ecological engineering between marine scientists and coastal managers as compared to other stakeholders. The surveys were conducted across three Australian cities that varied in their level of urbanisation and environmental pressures. We tested the hypotheses that, relative to other stakeholders, marine scientists and coastal managers will: 1) be more supportive of ecological engineering; 2) be more likely to agree that enhancement of biodiversity and remediation of pollution are key priorities for ecological engineering; and 3) identify different priority areas and infrastructure or degraded habitats for ecological engineering. We also tested the hypothesis that 4) perceptions of ecological engineering would vary among locations, due to environmental and socio-economic differences. In all three harbours, marine scientists and coastal managers were more supportive of ecological engineering than other users. There was also greater support for ecological engineering in Sydney and Melbourne than Hobart. Most people identified transport infrastructure, in busy transport hubs (i.e. Circular Quay in Sydney, the Port in Melbourne and the Waterfront in Hobart) as priorities for ecological engineering, irrespective of their stakeholder group or location. There were, however, significant differences among locations in what people perceive as the key priorities for ecological engineering (i.e. biodiversity in Sydney and Melbourne vs. pollution in Hobart). Greater consideration of these location-specific differences is essential for effective management of artificial structures and rehabilitated habitats in urban embayments.