We have developed a conceptual model to assist integration between physical geographical sciences, institutional frameworks and management in the context of coastal wetlands. Wetlands are key interconnected systems that will respond early to climate change and especially to associated sea-level changes. A major constraint on management of wetlands is the lack of congruence between the ecosystems and the institutional frameworks that govern their management: connectivity in coastal systems is overlain by institutional fragmentation. We introduce a model that facilitates integration of physical geographical (biophysical) information into the legislative, planning, policy and management process. It consists of interconnected parallel subprojects in science and in planning with strong cross-links with stakeholders at all levels, founded on long-term and trusting relationships. We also show progress that has been made in applying the model, with an Australian example. It is concluded that the approach has potential to move towards the goal of sustainable management but that it urgently needs to evolve, so as to meet the challenges of climate and associated changes.