GREAT BARRIER REEF
// Outlook Report 2014
Risks to the Region’s values
Outlook Report 2009: Summary of risks to the Reef
The greatest threats facing the Great Barrier Reef ecosystem are from climate change. The individual threats of increasing sea temperature, ocean acidification and rising sea level are assessed as very high risk to the ecosystem and they will act across the entire Region. Their impact will be compounded by each other and by other existing regional and local threats. The most serious, regional-scale risks are catchment runoff, coastal development and some aspects of extractive use. These threats have the potential to work in combination to weaken the resilience of the Great Barrier Reef and therefore its ability to recover from serious disturbances (such as major coral bleaching events) that will become more frequent in the future. While climate change will affect all parts of the Great Barrier Reef, the compounding effects of threats associated with catchment runoff, coastal development and some extractive use means that the nearshore environment next to developed areas is the most at risk.
Management of the Great Barrier Reef Region (the Region), including establishing future management priorities, focuses on addressing the threats predicted to be of greatest risk to the Region’s values, but must also recognise the cumulative contribution of the full range of threats. It is informed by systematic assessments of the current and future risks presented by known threats, developed using the most up-to-date information. The threats to the Region’s values, and understanding of them, have changed over time. The development of a comprehensive management framework, integrated management arrangements and improved scientific knowledge reduced risk levels for many of the early identified threats. During the 1990s, management evolved to focus on emerging issues such as water quality, coastal development, fisheries, tourism and recreation.1,2 The comprehensive risk assessment contained in the Great Barrier Reef Outlook Report 20093 identified climate change, land-based run-off, coastal development and some aspects of extractive use as the areas of most serious risk and has guided subsequent decision making and the setting of management priorities.3,4 The impacts of climate change on the Reef ecosystem, linkages between terrestrial and marine systems, improvements in land-based run-off and cumulative impacts of coastal development and other activities have become key areas of additional management focus. The risk assessment for threats to the Region’s values described below is based on the information presented in the previous chapters. In addition to an examination of the level of risk various threats pose to the Region’s ecosystem, which updates the assessment presented in the Outlook Report 2009, a new assessment looks at the risks those threats pose to the Region’s heritage values.
The threats to the Region’s values have changed over time.
Threats to the Region’s ecosystem and heritage values are assessed.
9.2 Identifying and assessing the threats
9.2.1 Identifying the threats
The current and potential threats to the Region’s ecosystem and heritage values considered in this risk assessment are based on the evidence presented in Chapters 5 and 6. The 41 threats considered are listed in Appendix 5, including a comparison with those assessed in the Outlook Report 2009. As far as possible, the threats and their descriptions are consistent with those used in 2009. The changes made reflect improved understanding of the threats affecting the Region’s values and, in some cases, a merging