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Transport Infrastructure

Ecosystems provide infrastructure for the transportation of people and goods (e.g. navigation on rivers, lakes and marine waters).


Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Service Category

Provisioning Services


What is transport infrastructure and how is it derived?

The Brisbane River provides public transport infrastructure for city residents and visitors.

The Stradbroke ferry uses marine waters as transport infrastructure to carry people and vehicles from the mainland to the island.

Marine waters are important to imports and exports.

Transport infrastructure comes in two main forms; human-made infrastructure and natural infrastructure. Both types of infrastructure are important to connecting places and people across the SEQ region. Human-made transport infrastructure is inherently unsustainable however, with built-in obsolescence and direct environmental impacts from its construction. In addition, the building of large infrastructure projects often has significant distributional impacts with respect to social/environmental sustainability.

Natural transport infrastructure is less recognised in SEQ than human-made infrastructure. Natural transport infrastructure can include transportation along rivers, lakes, canals and marine waters (e.g. Brisbane's City Cats transport people along Brisbane River - the river provides the infrastructure for the transportation). Ports and harbours are essential to the movement of goods at national and international levels and have played an important role in the history of colonisation. Use of this type of infrastructure can also present direct environmental impacts.

The paradox is that transport infrastructure (human-made or natural) is essential, despite its obsolescence and distributional/environmental impacts. A healthy road, train line, airport and public transport network is just as essential as healthy rivers and marine waters to modern cities and societies. Although both types of transport infrastructure are important, this ecosystem service relates to the provision of natural transport infrastructure across SEQ. For more information on human-made infrastructure in SEQ see the SEQ Infratructure Plan and Program 2008 - 2026.

A key element in the benefits supplied by transport infrastructure in any form is connectivity, which in turn provides growth and distributional effects. Connectivity improves information flow, reduces time in travel, and reduces overall transaction costs. Within a social context, adequate infrastructure provides for general prosperity and health. At a general level, these elements within themselves can serve economic efficiency, less consumption of resources and a more sustainable society. Modern urban systems are dependant on transport infrastructure networks to make their economic and social systems function effectively.

Table 1 below presents the relative magnitude different ecosystem functions contribute to the provision of natural transport infrastructure. The most important ecosystem functions to the provision of natural transport infrastructure are those relating to the provision of water (e.g. water supply and water regulation). Water quality and quantity and where, when and how water is distributed in ecosystems (e.g. tides, storm water, flooding, depth and width of waterways) will determine the types of vehicles and the times these vehicles are able to use this service and therefore the overall use of water bodies for transport purposes. A good example of this is the use of City Cats on the Brisbane River. During peak flood periods the use of City Cats is often restricted due to debris in the river associated with flooding activity. Climate regulation and seasonal characteristics will also impact on how much time and how often we use this service (e.g. during storm periods or extremly cold periods we are less likely to venture outdoors).


Table 1:The relative magnitude (to other ecosystem functions) each ecosystem function contributes to Transport Infrastructure.

Ecosystem Function Category Ecosystem Function 0
Regulating Functions
Gas Regulation

Climate Regulation

Disturbance Regulation

Water Regulation

Soil Retention

Nutrient Regulation

Waste Treatment and Assimilation


Biological Control

Barrier Effect of Vegetation

Supporting Functions
Supporting Habitats

Soil Formation

Provisioning Functions

Raw Materials

Water Supply

Genetic Resources

Provision of Shade and Shelter

Pharmacological Resources

Cultural Functions
Landscape Opportunity



Yellow cross signals indicate an intersection in marine channels, similar to roundabouts or traffic lights on human-made transport infrastructure.

Although natural transport infrastructure (e.g. rivers, lakes  and marine waters) is provided freely and without human inputs, the actual use of this ecosystem service is facilitated by access to the appropriate vehicle (e.g. ferry, yacht, ship) and energy resource (e.g. wind, fuel). Places to lauch, park or dock the vehicle are also required (e.g. dock yards, moorings, boat ramps and car parks).


Are there any barriers to people receiving this ecosystem service and its benefits?

Barriers affecting the use of this ecosystem service include the potential to purchase or access specialised vehicles (e.g. boats); locality in the landscape and distance to the appropriate ecosystems; and rules governing how people use this service (e.g. trade agreements, quarantine, freight, licensing). Continual degradation of ecosystems providing these services (through anthropocentric or natural forces) will deny current and future generations from accessing this service.

This ecosystem service provides many benefits that contribute both directly and indirectly to the well-being of the SEQ community. The Constituents of Well-being this ecosystem service contributes to are presented in Table 2 below. Further information on these constituents and how ecosystem services contribute to them can be obtained by clicking on the links in the table.


Table 2:The relative magnitude (to other ecosystem services) Transport Infrastructure contributes to each constituent of well-being.

Well-being Category Constituent of Well-being 0
Physical Health            
Mental Health            
Secure and Continuous Supply of Services            
Security of Person            
Security of Health            
Secure Access to Services            
Security of Property            
Good Social Relations
Family Cohesion            
Community and Social Cohesion            
Freedom of Choice and Action
Social and Economic Freedom            
Self Actualisation            



Monitoring the health of ecosystems providing this service (e.g. rivers) and their adjoining ecosystems (e.g. riparian ecosystems, mangroves) is the most effective way of identifying if we are degrading, maintaining or improving this ecosystem service. Specific indicators for ecosystem health include water quality, sediment loading, and riparian habitat. The number of boat licences and registered water vehicles across SEQ could also be used as an indicator of the use of this ecosystem service.


How is this ecosystem service currently managed in SEQ?

The transport infrastructure network is shared between federal, state and local governments. There are many rules and regulations that govern how people use transport infrastructure. For example in SEQ the Moreton Bay Marine Park provides restrictions on where boating can occur, the types of boating and at what speed. Queensland Transport and Main Roads provides information on appropriate licenses and rules of navigation on waterways. The Australian Government should be contacted regarding international transport or trade in Australian territory. Municipal governments control local land uses adjacent to the water networks and access to riparian habitat.