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|
The strategy assesses habitats, species or groups of species as being potentially at risk if they are:
- a listed species under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, the Nature Conservation Act 1992 or a protected species under the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Regulations 1983
- assigned an assessment grade of poor or very poor in the Great Barrier Reef Outlook Report 2009
- assessed as vulnerable to climate change impacts in Climate Change and the Great Barrier Reef: A vulnerability assessment (2007)
- identified as having high/moderate degree of concern to management and low/moderate adequacy of information in Scientific information needs for the management of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park 2009-2014
- identified as a priority species in the Queensland Government's Back on Track Actions for Biodiversity for the natural resource management regions adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef Region
- identified as having an exploitation status of overfished, uncertain or undefined in the Queensland Government's stock status of Queensland's fisheries resources 2011
- assessed as having a high risk rating in the draft ecological risk assessment of otter trawling in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park
- in a high risk category in any future ecological risk assessments
- of significant concern to a Great Barrier Reef Marine Park stakeholder group
- identified as under threat in a published scientific study
- identified as a keystone cultural species by a Traditional Owner group.
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.
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.
groups of species
|Bony fish - Threadfin salmon||Complete|
|Bony fish - Grey mackerel||Complete|
|Bony fish - Snapper||Complete|
|Dwarf minke whale||Complete|
|Inshore dolphins – Australian snubfin and Indo-Pacific humpback||Complete|
|Inshore dolphins – Indo-Pacific bottlenose||Complete|
|Seabirds – Inshore and coastal foraging||Complete|
|Seabirds – Offshore and pelagic foraging||Complete|
|Sharks and rays||Complete|
|Habitats||Coral reefs||Available soon|
|Lagoon floor||Available soon|
|Open water||Available soon|