GREAT BARRIER REEF
// Outlook Report 2014
Indigenous and historic heritage values such as those on Low Island are vulnerable to changes in weather patterns
If altered weather patterns result in increased marine debris (Section 6.3.2) in the water and on the Region’s beaches, aesthetic values will be diminished.127 Aesthetic value could also be affected if island and other terrestrial habitats change as a result of a shifted climate.128 While the spatial locations of important scientific discoveries are unalterable, the habitats and species fundamental to that history are not. In many instances the relevant ecosystem values, and therefore the scientific heritage values associated with them, are likely to become significantly degraded through the effects of global warming and ocean acidification.
6.3.4 Implications of climate change for regional communities
Many Australians are concerned about the Great Barrier Reef being damaged or threatened by climate change.25,129 Climate change is likely to affect the way people interact with the Region and the social and economic benefits they derive from it. For example, foreshores and coastal infrastructure such as ports130, and the benefits communities derive from them, will be influenced by climate change impacts on the catchment and the Region. Climate change will also have implications for health and disaster risk management.131,132,133,134 The effects of climate change on coral reef ecosystems are predicted to be widespread and irreversible.135 Therefore, climate change poses one of the greatest risks to the future economic value of Reef-dependent industries such as tourism, fishing and recreation. While the implications of climate change for the economic value of Reef-dependent industries are numerous and there is an improved understanding of these91, they remain difficult to accurately quantify.136 The tourism industry is very concerned about the impacts of climate change on its businesses and livelihoods, including through degradation of reef sites, poor recovery of bleached sites as a result of other stresses, and a loss of marketing appeal as a high-quality reef destination.137 A healthy and resilient Reef is fundamental to the success of many tourism operations and deteriorating Reef conditions may reduce visitor satisfaction. In a 2013 survey of visitors to the Region the most important motivations for their visit were those relating to the state of the ecosystem — for example, clarity of water, iconic species, healthy reef fish and healthy coral reefs (see Section 5.2.2).127 It is likely fishing activities will also be highly sensitive to climate change, including as a result of projected changes in fish abundance, survivorship138,139,140, size and distribution, disruptions to shallow-water nurseries and loss of coral reef habitats, as well as changes in cyclone and storm activity.72,141,142 Extreme weather events may provide a window into the future for predicting impacts of climate change on coastal communities, especially the flow-on effects of major ecosystem disturbances. In 2010–11 the Queensland coastline experienced high levels of flooding and was exposed to several cyclones, resulting in widespread damage to road and rail networks, and port and airport closures.143 Reef-based tourism operators were disadvantaged by public perceptions that the whole of the Great Barrier Reef was damaged by cyclone Yasi.143 Local fishers experienced difficulties going fishing and in getting their
Deteriorating Reef condition may reduce visitor satisfaction with their Reef experiences. Climate change effects on the ecosystem are expected to have major economic consequences for Reef-dependent industries.