NERP Tropical Ecosystems Hub

The mission of the NERP Tropical Ecosystems Hub (NERP TE Hub) is to address issues of concern for the management, conservation and sustainable use of the World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef (GBR) and its catchments, tropical rainforests including the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area (WTWHA), and the terrestrial and marine assets underpinning resilient communities in Torres Strait, through the generation and transfer of world-class research and shared knowledge.  This research will be highly relevant, influential in policy, planning and management, publicly available, and provide value for money.

The Hub builds on five years of public good environmental research supported through the Marine and Tropical Sciences Research Facility (MTSRF).  The MTSRF was a large investment by the Commonwealth Environment Research Facilities (CERF) program, funded by the Australian Government through the former Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts.  The MTSRF itself was built on the foundation of thirteen years of prior tropical research supported by the Cooperative Research Centres (CRC) Program, which funded CRCs for the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, Torres Strait and Wet Tropics rainforests.

These successive research programs have sought to improve regional environmental decision making and inform national, state and regional stakeholders through better understanding of:

  • The status and future trends of key species and ecosystems in northern Queensland;
  • The social and economic interactions between northern Queensland communities and their regional environmental assets;
  • The performance of existing management arrangements against their targets; and
  • The options for adaptation and new management approaches to enhance ecological and social resilience in a changing environment.

The NERP TE Hub will support 38 research projects, delivering into three geographic Nodes:  the Great Barrier Reef and its catchments, Torres Strait, and the Wet Tropics rainforests.  Common themes will run through each Node.  To that effect, the Hub’s research will be organised around twelve Research Programs to reflect the thematic and geographic matrix, with one program dedicated to communication and knowledge brokering across all three Nodes. 

Expected Outcomes of NERP TE Hub Activities

Responding to an independent review of the CERF program (include reference as a footnote), and the framing statements of the NERP, the NERP TE Hub has a primary obligation to strengthen decision-making on environmental matters by the Australian Government and other stakeholders. 

The Hub will develop and transfer new knowledge and tools (e.g. decision support systems) to managers and other users requiring environmental, social and/or economic information to support their respective future decisions.

The multiple community interests in managing the unique ecosystems of the Great Barrier Reef, Torres Strait, and the Wet Tropics rainforests (three tiers of government, industry, NRM bodies, conservation NGOs, public interest) means that the Hub will recognise the needs of the Australian Government along with the needs of a diverse range of interested stakeholders including Indigenous stakeholders. Desired outcomes of the research and knowledge transfer will include:

  • Greater clarity about the condition and trend of the key environmental assets;
  • New knowledge about historical changes in the GBR coastal zone;
  • Better definition of threatening processes in tropical terrestrial and marine ecosystems;
  • Management based on understanding multiple risks and cumulative pressures;
  • Inclusion of the socio-economic values of ecological goods and services in environmental decisions in northern Queensland;
  • Enhanced capacity and capability in north Queensland to support evidence-based decisions around competing resource uses, coastal development, invasive species, and climate change;
  • Better informed management of species of high conservation concern (e.g. cassowaries, turtles, dugongs, vulnerable shark species);
  • Greater participation by Indigenous stakeholders in co-management of biodiversity;
  • Support for ecologically sustainable communities in the Torres Strait;
  • Improved ability to predict ecosystem and societal responses to future change;
  • Better tools to evaluate alternative ecosystem scenarios;
  • Transfer of new knowledge and tools to other bioregions;
  • Improved flow of clear and appropriately targeted information to Queensland’s diverse northern communities, including Indigenous communities; and
  • Evidence of real-world impacts of Hub research on policy and on-ground practice in addition to a list of scholarly publications.