Document Type


Publication details

Saunders, KM & Taffs, KH 2009, 'Palaeoecology: a tool to improve the management of Australian estuaries', Journal of Environmental Management, vol. 90, no. 8, pp. 2730-2736.

Publisher's version of article available at

Peer Reviewed



Addressing environmental problems in estuaries is a worldwide problem. Establishing benchmarks and targets for management is critical, whether the aim is conservation, restoration or ‘sustainable wise use’. Palaeoecological techniques have rapidly improved during the past decade, particularly with advances in methods that allow high resolution quantitative assessments of environmental change, allowing pre-impact conditions, the rate, extent and direction of change, and range of natural variability to be determined. Australian estuarine ecosystems are qualitatively different to the often more well-studied estuaries in North America and Europe, which means site-specific studies of Australian estuaries are needed to inform management. While a potentially useful and valuable tool, palaeoecological techniques have not yet been widely adopted and practically implemented as part of estuarine management strategies and policy frameworks in Australia. We discuss the role palaeoecological techniques have to play in estuarine management and current problems limiting their adoption and implementation. We aim to encourage communication and dialogue between scientists and environmental managers about the potential for widespread practical adoption and implementation of palaeoecological techniques into Australian estuarine science, management and policy frameworks.