GREAT BARRIER REEF
// Outlook Report 2014
For thousands of years, societal attitudes about the Reef were those held by the Traditional Owner groups whose customary estates include sea country within the Region. Their culture and lore was reflected in ongoing stewardship and custodianship of the Reef environment. Traditional Owners continue to maintain a close and dynamic connection to their sea country, which integrates nature, heritage and culture. The attitudes of early European explorers were principally shaped by their anxiety about being shipwrecked, due to the sheer size and complexity of the coral reef system. By the late 1800s, nonIndigenous Australians saw the Reef as a bountiful resource to exploit, for example through dugong and turtle harvesting, pearling and commercial fishing. It was not until the early part of the twentieth century that they also began to explore its natural wonders in earnest, through science, recreation and tourism. This appreciation of the Reef flourished during the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, and continues today.26 By the mid-1960s, Australians were beginning to express concerns about the future of the Great Barrier Reef, particularly with respect to outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish and the possibility of drilling for oil.26 Growing public affinity for the Reef and a sense of responsibility for its future led to proclamation of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975 and subsequent progressive protection of the Great Barrier Reef as a marine park. Members of the community now take an active interest in the Reef and its protection, for example through expressing their opinion on major changes to management, such as zoning arrangements or permit decisions. Strong community concern around dredging and dredge material disposal was expressed during 2013 and early 2014. By January 2014, there was a combined total of over 1.5 million signatures on related petitions.27,28,29 Governance arrangements — a reflection of societal attitudes — play a major role in shaping the condition of the Region’s ecosystem and heritage values, for example through legislation, non-regulatory incentives for behaviour change, and international agreements and conventions (such as the World Heritage Convention and trade agreements). Education and awareness of the Reef and its values influence societal attitudes. Stewardship actions driven by community and industry are critically important in modelling both changed attitudes and actions that people can take to support management initiatives and maintain and enhance the Region’s values. Education and stewardship are central tenets of many management programs for the Region. The growing interest in stewardship programs reflects shifts in thinking towards ecologically sustainable development, human wellbeing and a healthy, vibrant Great Barrier Reef.
Societal attitudes influence people’s attitudes and actions in relation to the Reef.
Inspired to help monitor the Reef, tourism staff learn how to perform reef health surveys
6.3 Climate change
Climate change directly affects the Region through physical and chemical impacts on the ecosystem and heritage values. It also has indirect effects on these values by changing the way people interact with the Region and by affecting the other factors (such as land-based run-off) that influence the Region’s values. The rate and extent of increases in global greenhouse gas concentrations drive climate change. Increased concentrations of greenhouse gases (particularly carbon dioxide) in the atmosphere result in more heat being trapped, increasing the Earth’s temperature. Increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere also cause ocean acidification, a gradual reduction in the pH of seawater.30 Both these consequences (global warming and ocean acidification) are considered together in this assessment under the influencing factor ‘climate change’.
The climate is changing, with significant implications for the Region.
6.3.1 Trends in climate change