Conservation Planning for a Changing Coastal Zone

Conservation Planning for a Changing Coastal Zone

Intensive development in the coastal zone adjacent the Great Barrier Reef has led to degradation of coastal ecosystems that threatens the health of the GBR.

NERP Tropical Ecosystems Hub researchers from James Cook University are developing new methods of conservation planning based on mapping potential future scenarios to help guide planning for use of the coastal zone.

The key economic activities on land in the GBR coastal zone are related to shipping, intensive agriculture, urban development, and tourism. All these activities are set to expand and intensify in the future.

Systematic conservation planning determines the best spatial use of limited conservation resources to minimise the loss of valued aspects of the natural world in the future. It is faced with a significant challenge with coastal development because it is difficult to predict so threats to ecosystems and species are highly uncertain.

This challenge is increased by the necessity to account for cumulative impacts of all coastal development and activities in the coastal zone. A novel approach is required that integrates the uncertainty of the future and cumulative impacts to identify conservation areas that will be relevant and effective in the future.

Project 9.4 develops a new methodology called scenario-based systematic conservation planning. It brings together the research fields of scenario planning, spatial modelling, governance analysis, ecological impact assessments and systematic conservation planning.  First, this method uses spatially explicit scenario planning to identify plausible futures to 2035 for the GBR coastal zone.

Land use change modelling to map eight scenarios is done using spatial data, on land use, tourism, vegetation and sea level rise. Spatial marine use related to the land use development (e.g. shipping) is added to the scenarios.

The scenario maps are used to conduct ecological impact assessments in each scenario on identified environmental assets of the coastal zone such as water quality, seagrass and dugongs. The scenarios will also produce maps of disturbance probability and anticipated transition to urban land use across all scenarios.

Comparison of effects of governance systems on impacts on environmental assets is used to conduct governance analysis. Results of these analyses are finally brought together in a systematic conservation planning exercise. This will assist with prioritising conservation efforts and inform decisions on the most effective use of limited conservation resources and protection measures for the GBR coastal zone.

Dr. Amélie Augé, JCU

For more information, contact Amélie Augé at:

Project: 9.4: Conservation planning for a changing coastal zone



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