Functional ecosystems for nature-positive prosperity

February 10th, 2022

Project duration

February 2022 to June 2025

The challenge

Could leading indicators of ecosystem function drive investments that improve sustainability of agri-food and natural systems, by signalling how management actions create outcomes that people value? We are exploring whether forward-looking indicators can better influence decisions about what actions to implement to achieve desired outcomes.

Our response

This project will co-develop knowledge-to-action frameworks and trusted, accessible, socially relevant indicators of soil and ecosystem health. These support stakeholders to take action to mitigate risks and enhance positive outcomes, for both agri-food and nature-based values embedded within regional communities.

The project will use participatory processes to identify the spectrum of stakeholder values and link them to ecosystem function; test the merit of leading compared to lagging indicators of ecological function for changing management actions; and assess the utility of indicators for investors, banks and regulators to verify that actions have led (via lagging indicators), or will lead (via leading indicators), to outcomes that people value.

The approach will weave together three integrated streams of activities on:

  • The social-ecological system.
  • Soil health for agricultural production.
  • Ecosystem health for biodiversity.


This project aims to improve sustainability by co-developing knowledge and indicators that enable:

  • Farmers, natural resource managers and the broader community to credibly demonstrate and validate actions that avoid risks and lead to environmental outcomes they value.
  • Investors and banks to verify that actions lead to intended outcomes, so that they can reward those who have effectively reduced their risks.
  • Whole landscapes to sustainably provide the desired range of inter-related benefits – including agricultural production for people and habitat for biodiversity.


CSIRO: Becky Schmidt (Project Leader; L&W), Erinne Stirling (Postdoctoral Fellow, A&F); Lynne Macdonald (lead, soil health; A&F), Kristen Williams (lead, ecosystem health; L&W), Rebecca Pirzl (lead, social-ecological system; L&W), Greg Smith (L&W), Nicky Grigg (L&W), Rebecca Jordan (L&W), Jodie van De Camp (O&A), Suzanne Prober (L&W), Ben Macdonald (A&F), Simon Ferrier (L&W), Randall Donohue (L&W).