Vulnerability Assessments

As an integral part of the Great Barrier Reef Biodiversity Conservation Strategy 2013, vulnerability assessments are being undertaken on habitats, species and groups of species identified as being potentially at risk. These assessments will help inform the strategy's management priorities (Figure 1).

Figure 1 The Biodiversity Conservation Strategy flow diagram
Figure 1. The Biodiversity Conservation Strategy flow diagram

The strategy assesses habitats, species or groups of species as being potentially at risk if they are:

Potentially at-risk biodiversity is shown in Table 1.

This approach focuses resources on habitats or species identified as a priority for conservation management irrespective of their listing status under conservation legislation. This is a more flexible and adaptive approach, ensuring resources are directed towards those elements of biodiversity that most require intervention and is not reliant on the often lengthy listing process that is an integral part of most conservation legislation.

The development of the vulnerability assessments

The vulnerability assessments are designed as decision support tools for a broad range of stakeholders. The purpose of these assessments is to:

  • identify and document the range of pressures acting on an element of biodiversity using a standardised and transparent process
  • document levels of exposure and sensitivity to key threats within the Great Barrier Reef Region and assess the capacity of different species to adapt naturally or through management actions to determine their overall vulnerability to each pressure
  • engage with Commonwealth and Queensland government agencies, other stakeholders and the wider community to manage identified at-risk habitats, species and groups of species
  • identify gaps in management effectiveness, including deficiencies in legislation and policy, and where additional research is needed for making informed decisions
  • inform priorities for action in the Biodiversity Conservation Strategy
  • act as a catalyst for consultation and engagement with other groups and agencies that have either a management responsibility for the element of biodiversity or have influence over the impacts on them.

Before publication, vulnerability assessments are peer-reviewed by natural resource managers and researchers considered to be authorities on that particular element of biodiversity.

Before publication, the vulnerability assessments are peer-reviewed by natural resource managers and researchers considered to be authorities on that particular element of biodiversity

Figure 2. The key components of vulnerability assessments (Adapted from Wachenfeld et al., 2007).

The vulnerability assessments will be reviewed and updated as new information becomes available and will be reviewed and updated to inform each five-yearly Outlook Report to ensure management actions are current for each of the potentially at-risk elements of biodiversity identified within the Biodiversity Conservation Strategy (as per Figure 1). Vulnerability assessments can also be used as a reactive tool when a Great Barrier Reef stakeholder group raises significant concerns about an element of biodiversity and there is a need to document these concerns using a standardised and transparent process.

Vulnerability assessments status

Table 1. Overview of the status of each of the vulnerability assessments on elements of biodiversity that the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has so far identified as being required.

 Vulnerability assessment Status

Species or

groups of species

Bony fish - Threadfin salmon   Complete
Bony fish - Grey mackerel   Complete
Bony fish - Snapper   Complete
Dugong  Complete
Dwarf minke whale  Complete
Humpback whale Complete
Inshore dolphins – Australian snubfin and Indo-Pacific humpback   Complete
Inshore dolphins – Indo-Pacific bottlenose    Complete
Marine turtles  Complete
Sawfish   Complete
Sea snakes   Complete
Seabirds – Inshore and coastal foraging   Complete
Seabirds – Offshore and pelagic foraging     Complete
Shorebirds   Complete
Sharks and rays  Complete
Habitats   Coral reefs   Available soon
Islands      Available soon
Lagoon floor   Available soon
Estuaries   Available soon
Open water   Available soon
Freshwater wetlandsComplete
Seagrass    Complete