The science of biodiversity conservation has come of age in Australia. The combined effect of better information on conservation priorities and improved mechanism design means that it is now possible to implement cost-effective biodiversity conservation schemes. We outline recent advances in the development of databases, mapping tools and concepts for characterising the quality and spatial attributes (location, size, connectivity) of native vegetation and species’ habitat. The conservation strategies that provide impetus for these developments are emphasised. The paper also highlights the role of ideas from information economics in stimulating thinking about mechanism design. How the new information about biodiversity can improve the efficiency of policy mechanisms is outlined. Specific attention is given to payments for conservation services, environmental management systems, voluntary programs, and catchment-wide decision-making processes.