Stream 4: Integration

The Great Barrier Reef - A rapidly changing and degrading ecosystem: The need for urgent management and current opportunities
  • Jane Waterhouse1 and Jon Brodie2
  • 1TropWATER, James Cook University, Australia
  • 2Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University, Australia

The Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is an iconic coastal ecosystem under sustained pressure from anthropogenic activities. These influences occur both within the GBR e.g. fishing and port development, and those originating outside of the boundaries of the GBR e.g. terrestrial pollutant runoff from the adjacent catchment and global climate change. This has led to severe declines in many key ecosystems and species, e.g. coastal wetlands, coral reefs, seagrass, dugong, turtles and some commercial fish species. Historic management approaches have targeted direct use within the GBR such as port development, fishing and tourism through zoning. These approaches have had limited positive benefit for the influences originating outside of the GBR. Terrestrial runoff has been primarily managed through voluntary and incentive-based approaches to improve agricultural land management practices. While there are many positive examples of small-scale water quality management, it is clear that current initiatives will not meet the desired water quality outcomes. Climate change factors have been considered but not adequately enacted through national management initiatives. To accelerate the change in GBR management, improvements to governance, program design, delivery and evaluation systems are urgently needed. This will require greater incorporation of social and economic factors, better targeting and prioritisation, exploration of alternative management options and increased support and resources.

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