Great Barrier Reef Climate Change Action Plan 2007 – 2012
The Great Barrier Reef is internationally renowned as a place of great beauty and ecological significance and is protected as a Marine Park and a World Heritage Area. It is of immense social, economic and cultural value to the people of Australia. While the Great Barrier Reef is recognised as one of the best-managed coral reef systems in the world, climate-related events have already caused significant impacts. Coral bleaching affected over 50% of reefs in both 1998 and 2002, and seabird nesting failures were observed in 2002 and 2005. These are just the first of many anticipated impacts of climate change on the Reef. However, climate change is not the only threat to the Reef; rather, it’s effects will interact with other pressures such as degraded water quality and unsustainable fishing. Two major factors will dictate the future health of the Reef: the rate and extent of climate change, and the resilience of the Reef ecosystem to climate change. While the bigger issue of climate change mitigation is a matter for international policy, the resilience of the Reef is under the influence of local management strategies. To secure the future of the Reef it is essential for agencies responsible for managing the Marine Park and its adjacent catchment to do everything possible to restore and maintain the resilience of the ecosystem. It is critical that coordinated actions are taken to protect biodiversity, improve water quality and ensure sustainable fishing. Resilience-based management of the Reef is core business for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. Major resilience-building actions already underway include the Reef Water Quality Protection Plan and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Zoning Plan. The emergence of climate change makes these efforts even more important, while also presenting new challenges and demanding further action. Without such action, the Reef faces a bleak future under almost all possible future climate scenarios. By taking action, the Australian Government will continue to provide global leadership in the management of coral reef ecosystems facing the threat of climate change. This Action Plan outlines a way forward for the Australian Government to comprehensively act to maximise the resilience of the Reef.