GREAT BARRIER REEF
// Outlook Report 2014
8.6.3 Overall summary of resilience
While the Great Barrier Reef Region may be one of the healthiest tropical marine ecosystems in the world, there is concern that its resilience is being seriously, and increasingly rapidly, eroded. There is no comprehensive information on the resilience of the Region’s ecosystem — due largely to its size and complexity and the difficulties of measuring resilience. However, there is increasing evidence of loss of resistance and recovery capacity, although the extent of that loss varies considerably between ecosystem components and between localities. The natural resilience of the Region’s values may be being overwhelmed by increases in levels of disturbance, and consequent impacts. The emerging loss of ecosystem resilience is particularly critical in the context of the projected major increase in the effects of climate change impacts and the lag time between improved land management practices and observable ecosystem improvements. Current evidence suggests climate change trajectories remain on course for increasingly serious impacts in the Region. As these effects worsen, it is very likely that interactions between climate-related threats and other threats will have increasingly serious consequences. Managing for resilience is most important in situations where there is uncertainty about risks and appropriate management responses — the combined consequences of climate change and local and regional impacts on the Great Barrier Reef present such a situation. Maintaining the resilience of the Great Barrier Reef ecosystem will require major increases in effort to reduce local and global threats. Resilience is a relatively new concept in heritage management, describing the ability of heritage values, both tangible and intangible, to experience impacts or disturbances while retaining the inherent values for which they are recognised. It depends upon the nature and condition of the values, the way they are appreciated and understood, the use that is made of them, the impacts affecting them and the effectiveness of management arrangements. Built heritage values are finite and irreplaceable. Resilience is strongest for those places, structures and wrecks where: the structure and site are inherently stable; the values are well recorded, monitored and recognised; regulatory protection is in place and enforced; and planning, restoration and regular maintenance are undertaken. For such values in the Region, the four heritage-listed lightstations and the wreck of the HMS Pandora are likely to be the most resilient. Much of the remaining built heritage in the Region is likely to be less resilient because it is poorly recorded, rarely monitored or maintained, is not specifically protected or its significance is not well understood or appreciated. The resilience of intangible values, such as many of the Region’s Indigenous heritage values, depends strongly on the active involvement of the custodians of those values so that connections and knowledge are kept alive. Broader understanding of these values and having regulatory systems that recognise and take them into account are also important contributors to their resilience. The resilience of heritage values derived from the natural environment (such as Indigenous heritage values and world and national heritage values) is a direct function of the resilience of the underpinning ecosystem.