About this report
Trends are not indicated for those components that were not assessed in the Outlook Report 2009, for example the heritage values of the Region (Chapter 4). Similar to the Australian state of the environment report and the strategic assessment draft report, the level of confidence in each assessment of grade and trend is rated. The categories used are: • adequate high quality evidence and high level of consensus • limited evidence or limited consensus
Trend since 2009 and confidence are presented for most assessments.
• inferred, very limited evidence. For components where the confidence level is ‘inferred, very limited evidence’, the assessment is based on knowledge from managing agencies, Traditional Owners, topic experts and informed stakeholders. Confidence levels are not provided for the assessment of existing protection and management (Chapter 7).
1.5 Evidence used
This report contains brief background information on the Region, its ecosystem, heritage values, use and management and the key evidence for the assessments required under the Act and the Regulations. The information featured in the report is only a small portion of all that is known about the Region. The evidence used is derived from existing research and information sources. It is drawn from the best available published science to the end of 2013 based on: • relevance to the required assessments • duration of study • extent of area studied • reliability (such as consistency of results across different sources, peer-review and rigour of study).
The Outlook Report is based on the best available evidence.
In some cases, new information that became available after 2013 has been included where it was considered to make a significant difference to a key finding of the report. For example, water quality data have been incorporated from the Great Barrier Reef Report Card 2012 and 20137, released in June 2014. The sources of the evidence directly used in each chapter are cited at the end of that chapter. The web addresses provided were correct at the time of writing. Despite the volume of information available, there remain many aspects of the Region, its values, uses and threats (in particular cumulative effects), about which little is known. Significant information gaps are noted in the text.
In the various management, research and monitoring programs relevant to the Reef, there is no common way of dividing up the Region. Throughout this report, three areas are referred to: ‘northern’, ‘central’ and ‘southern’. These are broadly in keeping with the range of divisions used by managers and scientists. While the boundaries are not precisely defined, the northern area ranges from the tip of Cape York to about the latitude of Cooktown and Port Douglas, which marks the division between the developed and lessdeveloped catchments adjacent to the Region. The central area extends from about Cooktown and Port Douglas to about the Whitsundays and the southern area is the area south of the Whitsundays. The term ‘southern two-thirds of the Region’ is often employed to describe the combined central and southern areas. Some research and monitoring results reported specifically relate to a different set of sub-divisions for the Region, for example the natural resource management regions. Where possible, the area relevant to each set of evidence is mapped or described alongside the evidence. Across the Region, the term ‘inshore’ is applied to areas within about 20 kilometres of the coast. It corresponds to enclosed coastal and open coastal water bodies described in the Water Quality Guidelines for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park8 but also includes areas further offshore that are habitats for recognised inshore species such as dugongs. Areas beyond are generally referred to as ‘offshore’. For coral reefs, the term ‘outer shelf’ refers to those along the edge of the continental shelf and ‘mid-shelf’ refers to those between inshore areas and the outer barrier reefs.