Prioritizing management actions for the southern Great Barrier Reef Islands

Prioritizing management actions for the southern Great Barrier Reef Islands

Managers of the Great Barrier Reef’s 900 islands face difficult decisions when it comes to investing in conservation management. So where should they invest limited resources to achieve the best outcomes for management problems?

These conservation decisions must be made in the face of spatially heterogeneous and dynamic threats, including invasive plants and animals and inappropriate fire regimes, and within a constrained budget. NERP Tropical Ecosystems Hub researchers from James Cook University are assembling a decision-making framework for such a purpose.

Project 9.3 works closely with GBRMPA and the Queensland Government to develop a cost-effective approach to prioritising management actions across GBR islands. More specifically, the project’s goal is to maximize conservation outcomes defined by specific objectives for diverse natural features, including native plant and animal species, vegetation assemblages and breeding aggregations.

A decision-support tool with GIS capability will help managers to identify management priorities within and between islands. The project will deliver results that are useful to a range of stakeholder organisations, including state and Australian government bodies, the tourism sector, and conservation planners and managers.

The project covers both Queensland and Commonwealth Islands in the southern sector of the GBR from Mackay to Bundaberg. This region was chosen based on the national and international significance of these islands in relation to vulnerable and endangered species, tourism value, and the likely threats presented by expanding industrial development.

For the initial development of the decision-support tool, 13 islands have been chosen as a representative sample of the southern GBR islands. These islands differ in size, geomorphology, species assemblages, regional ecosystems, threats and commercial and recreational uses. As a result, the selected islands encapsulate the varied challenges for management.

After the initial number of islands has been enlarged, the main project outputs will be:

  1. A compilation of all available data, including quantified expert judgements on islands to set parameters for key variables to be used in the management prioritization.
  2. A novel, cost-effective, transparent, and accountable approach to prioritizing management actions for multiple objectives across islands, designed and understood by GBR managers.
  3. An interactive, spatially explicit decision-support tool for day-to-day use that will allow managers to identify action-specific management priorities within and between islands.

Amelia Wenger, JCU

For more information, contact Amelia Wenger at:

Project 9.3: Prioritising management actions for Great Barrier Reef islands



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