Community-based approaches for restoring biodiversity in coastal parks

© Shane Orchard
Published: 14 November 2015
Last edited: 30 September 2020
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The restoration and protection of biodiversity in coastal parks to address dune degradation can provide solutions to other issues. In New Zealand these include protection against coastal hazards, providing culturally important plant fiber resources, and improving the natural character and amenity values of the coastline. The key to securing the best range of benefits is a place-based and community centred approach that first identifies how parks management can assist local communities.


Scale of implementation
Marine and coastal ecosystems
Ecosystem services
Indigenous people
Local actors
Outreach & communications
Protected and conserved areas management planning
Science and research
Ecological challenges
Land and Forest degradation
Loss of Biodiversity
Sea level rise
Storm surges
Tsunami/tidal wave
Conflicting uses / cumulative impacts
Ecosystem loss
Invasive species
Lack of public and decision maker’s awareness
Social conflict and civil unrest
Sustainable development goals
SDG 3 – Good health and well-being
SDG 4 – Quality education
SDG 11 – Sustainable cities and communities
SDG 13 – Climate action
SDG 15 – Life on land
SDG 17 – Partnerships for the goals
Aichi targets
Target 1: Awareness of biodiversity increased
Target 2: Biodiversity values integrated
Target 5: Habitat loss halved or reduced
Target 9: Invasive alien species prevented and controlled
Target 10: Ecosystems vulnerable to climate change
Target 11: Protected and conserved areas
Target 12: Reducing risk of extinction
Target 14: Ecosystem services
Target 15: Ecosystem restoration and resilience
Target 17: Biodiversity strategies and action plans
Target 19: Sharing information and knowledge


New Zealand | Ōtautahi / Christchurch, New Zealand, Oceania region


In New Zealand, and worldwide, there is an urgent need to conserve the biodiversity of coastal dune ecosystems as a consequence of human development patterns. Methods for dune protection and restoration have been developed but community buy-in is essential to securing lasting gains. Climate change will bring serious new challenges for many dune ecosystems and planning ahead is vital for successful outcomes. Spatial planning and the protected area design have key roles to play.


  • Local community
  • Wider community
  • Tangata whenua (people of the land) – for cultural and traditional values
  • Future generations
  • Native species

How do the building blocks interact?

Information availability assists community-based approaches in many ways. At the outset, technical information and access to ‘proven techniques’ can help with project design, confidence and buy-in of participants. Having this available in suitable formats is essential. Capturing information on the progress being made is also important to gauge the success of steps taken and enable adaptive approaches to planning and decision making along the way. Restoring biodiversity in coastal parks to address the problem of historical dune degradation provides an example of where native biodiversity can improve wider socio-ecological functions. However the technical information is by itself not sufficient. Awareness raising and other engagement activities are required to help motivate people to take action away from the status quo. Thus the solution must also involve changing the expectations people have for these areas. Documenting some of the tangible outcomes (eg ‘ecosystem services’) can help by demonstrating the value of the ‘solution’ in practice. This information can reinforce the desirability of the actions being taken to help maintain interest in the project or attract new sources of support.


Monitoring has shown that restoration techniques are effective in re-establishing coastal dunes in New Zealand. Increased abundance and cover of indigenous dune plant species and the persistence of dune landforms are some of the measures of success. At the species level there are several threatened and at-risk species reliant on dunes. At the ecosystem level both ‘active’ and ‘stabilised’ sand dune systems are priorities for protection due to historical declines. Another feature of many New Zealand dune restoration projects has been a community-based approach. At the management level the focus on community involvement has been facilitated by initiatives such as ‘Coastcare’ projects that provide opportunities for public participation. Positive effects of this approach include increasing the awareness and understanding of dune conservation needs, and direct gains for management through volunteer contributions to restoration work.

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Shane Orchard International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)

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