World Heritage Areas

Managers of the world heritage Great Barrier Reef have repeatedly made stronger calls for social science data to assist them in their day-to-day duties. Researchers of Project 10.1 will work directly with the GBRMPA, DEEDI, GBRF, DERM, industry and community to develop world-class social and economic research that will directly facilitate the management of the Great Barrier Reef.

The broad goal of this project is to identify strategic priorities for protection and restoration of coastal ecosystems that support the health and resilience of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, in the context of changing land use, expanding infrastructure, and climate change. More specifically, the project will address three limitations of previous research and application in conservation planning. First, conservation planning has focused principally on snapshots of biodiversity and land uses, as if planning regions were static.

The broad goal of this project is to work collaboratively with Commonwealth and Queensland Government agencies to develop an explicit decision making framework for investing cost-effectively in management actions across the islands of the Great Barrier Reef. More specifically, the goal is to maximise a conservation outcome, defined by specific objectives for diverse natural features (e.g.

Understanding temporal and spatial patterns of vulnerability under environmental impacts and change is central to the management of marine parks. Quantitative assessments of vulnerability, however, are one of the greatest challenges for management planning of coral reef ecosystems, including the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). One reason is the lack of a functional operational framework that can link environmental factors to vulnerability via physical, biological and ecological processes and their interactions.

Our recent four-year MTSRF project demonstrated significant export of larvae of the inshore coral trout species (Plectropomus maculatus) from existing no-take marine reserves (green zones) in the Keppel Island group on the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). In addition, no-take reserves were shown to make a disproportionately large contribution to recruitment in fished areas (blue zones) at this location.

Spatial zoning for multiple-use is the cornerstone of management for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (GBRMP). Multiple-use zoning was first implemented widely in the GBRMP in the late 1980s and this original zoning plan was in place until 2004, when the marine park was completely rezoned under the Representative Areas Program (RAP).

Implementation of networks of protected areas is the single most widely advocated action to protect marine biodiversity; the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park was one of the first and is one of the largest examples of such a network in the world. While some effects of marine protected areas can be seen rapidly, there are also long term changes that may develop over 1-2 decades. Surveys of the matched pairs of reefs during the term of the NERP Program will enable the longer-term effects of zoning to be assessed eight and ten years after the new zoning plan came into force.

This project proposes to provide information and tools to enable scientists and management agencies to predict and limit the impacts of extreme climatic events on Australia’s biodiversity.  It aims to determine the exposure, sensitivity and vulnerability of Wet Tropics biodiversity to climatic extremes, and assess contemporary and future impacts.

Invasive species management in the Wet Tropics is currently driven by a species-led prioritisation approach, as are weed and pest animal management activities globally. However, land managers in the region are increasingly recognising the necessity for regional-scale population prioritisation tools that incorporate the complexity of ecological processes of invasive species spread and establishment and take account of the values and assets in the landscape.

Rainforests are generally thought of as being highly susceptible to damage by fire, and for many Southeast Asian and Amazonian rainforests this is indeed the case. However, Australian rainforests have persisted for millennia in an environment where fire is common, and repeated contractions into refugia and subsequent expansions during glacial cycles (Hilbert et al. 2007) means that extant rainforest taxa have survived frequent exposure to fire.


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