ILWS - Charles Sturt University
ILWS - Charles Sturt University

Integrating the conservation and ecosystem-service value of Australia's catchments (2009-13)

Strategic Research Area

Ecosystem Services


ARC Future Fellowship $686,000

Investigators/ Researchers

Professor Gary Luck


A fly on an almond flowerLand has intrinsic and utilitarian values that are often viewed as conflicting, not complementary. Sustainable land management requires integrating these values. The ecosystem-service concept could potentially marry conservation and development but has emphasised monetary values and failed to deliver promised conservation benefits.  This program of research looked at various ways to integrate the ecosystem-services concept into conservation and land management, ranging from broad-scale modelling of biodiversity and ecosystem services values, on-ground field assessments of the delivery of ecosystem services to agriculture, and critical reviews of the ethical implications of applying the concept in land management and policy development.

Prof Luck and colleagues completed a range of projects within this framework including:

  • Developing and testing new methods for identifying spatial priorities for protecting biodiversity and ecosystem services such as carbon storage and water filtration. This work was applied globally, within Victoria, and now in Nepal.
  • Examining the potential for native insect species to provide pollination services to almond crops in north-west Victoria.
  • Examining how changes in bird diversity across different land uses may impact on the provision of key services such as pollination, biological control and seed dispersal.
  • Developing new guidelines for researchers, land managers and policy makers in assessing the ethical implications of different on-ground applications of the ecosystem service concept.

During the fellowship Prof Luck developed his work on the contribution of fauna to ecosystem service provision extensively. This led to:

  • collaboration with  Melbourne University whereby the researchers examined ecosystem services provided by birds, bats and insects in urban gardens across Melbourne
  • invitations to collaborate on two ARC DECRA grants (pending) that will examine ecosystem services and functions related to urban landscapes
  • a new ARC Discovery Project (which begin in 2014) that will examine how environmental change may impact the provision of pollination, biological control and waste disposal services across different agricultural land uses

His work on valuing ecosystem services also developed during the fellowship and led to a major international collaboration examining the ethics of ecosystem services.


So far there has been one book chapter, some 16 published journal articles, and 10 presentations at conferences/workshops as a result of this research. These include:

Journal Articles

Luck, G.W. 2013. The net return from animal activity in agro-ecosystems: trading off benefits from ecosystem services against costs from crop damage. F1000 Research 2:239 doi: 10.12688/f1000research.2-239.v2

Saunders, M.E., Luck, G.W. & Mayfield, M.M. 2013. Almond orchards with living ground cover host more wild insect pollinators. J. Insect Conserv. 17, 1011-25.

Luck, G.W., Carter, A. & Smallbone, L. 2013. Changes in bird functional diversity across multiple land uses: interpretations of functional redundancy depend on functional group identity. PLoS One. 8(5): e63671.

Luck, G.W., Chan, K.M.A., Eser, U., Gómez-Baggethum, E., Matzdorf, B., Norton, B. & Potschin, M.B. 2012. Ethical considerations in on-ground applications of the ecosystem services concept. BioScience 62, 1020-29.

Luck, G.W., Lavorel, S., McIntyre, S. & Lumb, K. 2012. Improving the application of vertebrate trait-based frameworks to the study of ecosystem services. J. Animal Ecol. 81, 1065-76.

Luck, G.W., Chan, K.M.A. & Fay, J.P. 2009. Protecting ecosystem services and biodiversity in the world's watersheds. Conserv.  Letts 2, 179-88.


The new methods for identifying spatial priorities for protecting ecosystem services and biodiversity will be of great benefit to NGOs or government organisations attempting to balance environmental needs with those of human communities. The information from the practical applications will lead to better land-use planning, limit biodiversity losses, and ensure there is minimal disruption to the provision of key services like food or water provision. These methods, now being applied in Nepal, will greatly improve community forest management through identifying threats and stresses to particular forests, which forests to target for particular services, and how demand for services may threaten biodiversity conservation (and hence require changes in land management or provision of alternatives to local communities). Global NGOs like WWF are also adopting these methods to identify priorities for protecting biodiversity and ecosystem services globally. This will guide future investments by this organisation.

The research on ecosystem services provided by animals has the potential to yield substantial benefits to agriculturalists if they manage their landscapes in such a way as to promote species that can provide services such as pollination and pest control.

The work on the services that biodiversity provides humans has significant cultural and social implications and will help guide future research and management of ecosystem services without undermining moral or ethical reasons for protecting nature.


Prof Gary Luck
CSU-Albury campus