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What are the policy priorities for sustaining ecological processes? A case study from Victoria, Australia


  • Ann McGregor,

  • Brian Coffey,

  • Carrie Deutsch,

  • Geoff Wescott,

  • Jim Robinson

Ann McGregor is an environmental planning consultant (Brunswick, Vic. 3056, Australia; Email: Brian Coffey is a Research Fellow with the School of International and Political Studies at Deakin University (Princes Highway, Warrnambool, Vic. 3280, Australia; Email: Carrie Deutsch is an Environmental Consultant. She was the Project Leader for the Victoria Naturally Alliance when this project was undertaken (c/- Victorian National Parks Association, Level 3/60 Leicester Street, Carlton, 3053 Vic. Australia; Email: Geoff Wescott is Associate Professor of Environment in the School of Life and Environmental Sciences at Deakin University (221 Burwood Highway, Burwood, Vic. 3125, Australia; Tel: +03 9251 7046; Email: Jim Robinson is a Senior Project Officer with Greening Australia (PO Box 525, Heidelberg, Vic. 3084, Australia; Email: This project was commissioned by the Victoria Naturally Alliance of nine environmental non-government organisations and one statutory authority, primarily to contribute to a Victorian Government review of biodiversity policy.


Summary  Developments in ecological theory indicate that ecological processes have major implications for sustaining biodiversity and the provision of ecosystem services. Consequently, conservation actions that focus solely on particular species, vegetation communities, habitats or sites (‘assets’) are unlikely to be effective over the long term unless the ecological processes that support them continue to function. Efforts to sustain biodiversity must embrace both ‘assets’ and ‘process-oriented’ approaches. Existing knowledge about ecological processes, incomplete though it is, has not been adequately considered in government decision making. It is, therefore, necessary to consider how to build consideration of ecological processes into legislative and institutional frameworks, policy and planning processes, and on-ground environmental management. Drawing on insights from interviews, a facilitated workshop, and a literature review, this paper identifies a suite of policy priorities and associated reforms which should assist in ensuring that ecological processes are given more attention in policy-making processes. It is concluded that a multi-pronged approach is required, because there are no ‘silver bullets’ for sustaining ecological processes.

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