What are EcoMarkets?

EcoMarkets is the term used to describe a range of market-based systems aimed at addressing environmental decline. In general terms, it describes a world-leading approach being developed and applied by the Victorian Government to improve the health of the environment.

The need for EcoMarkets has never been more apparent. Climate change, increased urbanisation of land and the pressures of commercial agriculture in addition to the continuing threats posed by pest plants and animals are all placing greater pressure on our natural environment. A new approach to this problem is needed – one that makes a real difference.

The main function of EcoMarkets is to provide incentives for private landholders, who own 65% of Victoria's land, to manage their land in ways that conserve and enhance the environment. Landholders will be able to earn income from EcoMarkets if they are able to provide environmental improvements in a cost-effective way.

BushTender, EcoTender and BushBroker are examples of EcoMarkets that have had significant positive impacts on environmental quality on private land. BushTender and EcoTender adopt auction-based approaches, while BushBroker is a system of tradeable credits.

Further information can be found in our brochures:

EcoMarkets brochure (PDF, 1.9 MB)
EcoMarkets brochure (Accessible) (DOCX, 27.7 KB)

How ecoMarkets work

Almost every day we interact with markets. A market allows us to buy and sell goods, services and information. A market can cross geographic boundaries and there are many tools that allow us to interact within a market place. These tools – referred to as market-based approaches or market-based instruments (MBIs) – can include:

  • Auctions and competitive tenders
  • Offsets
  • Cap-and-trade mechanisms.

The application of market-based approaches to environmental goods and services is a recent development. The ecoMarkets program was created to facilitate the trading of environmental goods and services.

EcoMarkets work by creating opportunities for providers of environmental benefits, such as private landholders, to engage with willing buyers of these benefits.

Willing buyers may be the Victorian Government seeking to obtain environmental improvements on behalf of the public or they may be private companies or individuals, such as developers, seeking to offset environmental damage through remedial actions elsewhere. They may also be ethical investors or philanthropic organisations seeking to invest in interventions that contribute to the improved health of the Victorian environment.

In Victoria, ecoMarkets are built on a suite of policy instruments, legal frameworks and practical procedures that Victorian economists, scientists and natural resource managers have been working on and refining throughout the last decade.

In this time, much work has been done to make sure ecoMarkets are readily accessible and easily understood. The process for getting involved in ecoMarkets has been tested and modified and previous participants vouch for the ease of involvement and simplicity of the approach.

Case studies

Participants in ecoMarkets

Trevor – Successful participant, Port Phillip and Westernport EcoTender (PDF, 362.9 KB)
Trevor – Successful participant, Port Phillip and Westernport EcoTender (DOC, 282.5 KB)

Jim – Successful participant, West Gippsland EcoTender (PDF, 986.8 KB)
Jim – Successful participant, West Gippsland EcoTender (DOC, 2.2 MB)

Partners with ecoMarkets

Dave – Project Manager, Bass Coast Landcare Network (PDF, 337.8 KB)
Dave – Project Manager, Bass Coast Landcare Network (DOC, 318.5 KB)

Chelsey – Regional Implementation Manager, Corangamite Catchment Management Authority (PDF, 407.4 KB)
Chelsey – Regional Implementation Manager, Corangamite Catchment Management Authority (DOC, 308.5 KB)

Janet – Landcare Coordinator, Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority (PDF, 252.4 KB)
Janet – Landcare Coordinator, Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority (DOC, 216.0 KB)

Jenny – Project Manager, Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority (PDF, 225.5 KB)
Jenny – Project Manager, Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority (DOC, 194.5 KB)

Jody – Biodiversity Projects Coordinator, Glenelg Hopkins Catchment Management Authority (PDF, 203.3 KB)
Jody – Biodiversity Projects Coordinator, Glenelg Hopkins Catchment Management Authority (DOC, 183.0 KB)

EnSym - Environmental Systems Modelling Framework

EnSym – Environmental Systems Modelling platform – is a computer software package designed to estimate the impact of actions in the landscape. Through modelling, EnSym allows us to understand and quantify the environmental benefits being delivered through on-ground conservation and revegetation works. Environmental benefits reported by EnSym include river, wetland and native vegetation health impacts and outcomes and changes in catchment function including hydrological impacts (surface and groundwater).

This software incorporates science, standards, metrics and information developed within the Department, as well as many leading international and national scientific models.

EnSym contains three main tools – the Site Assessment Tool for field work, the Landscape Preference Tool for asset prioritisation and metric building and BioSim for catchment planning.

EnSym's Site Assessment Tool estimates the impact of actions on the landscape, allowing natural resource managers to understand and quantify the environmental benefits of on-ground conservation and revegetation works. This tool is designed to ensure the consistent and objective calculation of the change in environmental service expected as a result of management actions (like weeding and revegetation) across a landscape. Importantly, it provides a score, known as the 'Environmental Benefits Index', for each site which can be used alongside information on costs to identify cost effective projects.

EnSym's Landscape Preference Tool makes it easy to identify sites that match a program's natural resource priorities. The Landscape Preference Tool allows natural resource managers to define a set of assessment criteria by which to assess sites and projects. The tool will then score sites using these criteria. These scores can be used as an objective measure to assist investment decision making.

EnSym's BioSim assists decision making in planning and water resource divisions by predicting the impact of land management on water, sediment and agricultural chemical yields in a catchment.

The science behind ecoMarkets

A large part of the science driving ecoMarkets is based on mapping Victoria into 20-metre grids. This level of landscape detail is a first for Victoria and possibly the world. The new landscape modelling techniques make it possible to identify the contribution that each 20-metre grid can make to improving environmental outcomes.

At its most basic level, this grid system characterises how each 20-metre area fits into the overall ecosystem. This detailed knowledge of the unique aspects of any particular location in the landscape allows prediction of the catchment scale impacts of any land management action or group of actions. For example, revegetating along a stream with indigenous plants creates improved habitat for native flora and fauna, filters runoff water that reduces sedimentation and harmful nutrients from entering the stream and finally captures carbon. However, this revegetation will also use water that may not be available for aquatic flora and fauna or consumptive purposes downstream. Developing the science to understand these interactions is critical if we are to make real improvements to the environment and avoid potentially unwanted outcomes.

So for the first time we can accurately identify and assess environmental 'quality' and judge the relative dollar value of potential improvements to the land. This means we can more easily report on the condition of our ecosystems and quantify in dollar terms the contribution the environment makes to the Victorian economy.

Groundwater modelling

In 2007 ecoMarkets initiated a state-wide program to develop groundwater models for each of Victoria's ten catchment management areas. Now completed, these groundwater models give EnSym the ability to assess the impacts of land use change and water use change on groundwater regimes and stream aquifer interaction at the catchment scale.

A staged approach was adopted during the development of each groundwater model. The initial phase involved the conceptualisation and development of a multi-layered steady state groundwater model. The second phase involved the refinement and expansion of the phase one outputs which lead to the construction of a multi-layered transient groundwater model.  At the end of each phase the models were independently reviewed in accordance with the Murray Darling Basin Authorities Groundwater Modelling Guidelines (Middlemis, 2001) which is Australian best practice guideline for groundwater flow modelling, including review and appraisal.

The final groundwater modelling program and associated data were deployed in 2010 and has since been widely used by various agencies across the state to assess and predict water balance accounts. Partners include the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Catchment Management Authorities and a number of local governments.

References Middlemis, H., Merrick, N., & Ross, J., 2001.   Murray Darling Basin Commission, Groundwater Flow Modelling Guide. Aquaterra Consulting Pty Ltd.

Climate Change Impact Modelling

EnSym has incorporated a Climate Change Impact Modelling Functionality to give end-users the ability to run EnSym's biophysical model (BioSim) on a range of climate change projections.

This will allow users to assess and visualise, both spatially and temporally, the likely impact of climate change on catchment dynamics, with the ultimate aim of providing a better understanding of how the Victorian landscape will respond to differing climate futures.

Further information

EnSym brochure (PDF, 5.5 MB)
EnSym brochure (accessible version) (DOC, 81.5 KB)

Information sheet: Site Assessment Tool (PDF, 690.0 KB)
Information sheet: Site Assessment Tool (accessible version) (DOC, 1.7 MB)

Information sheet: Landscape Preference Tool (PDF, 677.3 KB)
Information sheet: Landscape Preference Tool (accessible version) (DOC, 1.7 MB)

Information sheet: BioSim (PDF, 681.7 KB)
Information sheet: BioSim (accessible version) (DOC, 1.6 MB)

Information sheet: Climate Change Impact Modelling (PDF, 731.8 KB)
Information sheet: Climate Change Impact Modelling (accessible version) (DOC, 1.7 MB)

For more information, please visit the Ensym website.