Improved modelling of the ecosystem will inform management actions
© Matt Curnock
community knowledge with scientific knowledge can extend the time perspective of scientific knowledge and highlight potential subject areas for future studies.6 With regard to applying knowledge to management, key areas of focus include integrating knowledge, monitoring and reporting into adaptive management; improving alignment and coordination of research priorities; increasing emphasis on the use of modelling approaches; improving spatial mapping capabilities; supporting long-term monitoring programs; and standardising data collection and facilitating sharing.
10.3 Likely future trends
Trends in factors influencing the long-term outlook for the Region’s ecosystem and heritage values operate at large (globally for climate change) and local geographic scales and have varying social, biophysical and jurisdictional complexities. The future of the Region’s values will be largely determined by the cumulative effects of these factors, the effectiveness of management to increase resilience in the system and an ability to harness and integrate new information to inform future management responses.
10.3.1 Influencing factors
Trends in some key external factors will combine to affect the Region’s ecosystem and heritage values.
Drivers Economic growth is projected to continue in Queensland with a large proportion of this growth occurring adjacent to the Region. Population in the Great Barrier Reef catchment is expected to continue to grow at rates well above the national average for the foreseeable future. Some of this growth is a result of economic growth, especially in the resources sector. Both these drivers change land-use patterns in the catchment, including expanding the urban footprint to accommodate an increasing number of residents and increasing demand for infrastructure to support the resources industries. They also drive increases in use of the Region, for example shipping and recreational activities. Technological advances will continue and can provide positive outcomes for the Region and for management of the catchment (for example better navigational safety for ships and reduced fertiliser use). They can also increase some threats to the Region’s ecosystem and its heritage values (for example depth sounders and global positioning systems improving fishers’ ability to find, relocate and catch fish). Societal attitudes about the Great Barrier Reef will continue to be shaped by its iconic status as well as information about its condition and likely future. Such attitudes affect how people think about the Reef and the way they use it. This can enhance engagement in stewardship programs and uptake of best practice actions. climate change As well as indirectly driving change in factors that influence the Reef, climate change will directly influence the Region and continue to have far-reaching consequences. Future predictions indicate sea level rises and temperature increases will continue, ocean pH will gradually decline and weather will be more severe. These changes will have dramatic effects on the Region’s ecosystem and heritage values and the Reef-dependent industries that rely on them (for example commercial marine tourism and commercial fishing). coastal development Changes in land use over the last two centuries have determined the current extent and condition of natural ecosystems in the catchment. Continued modifications of terrestrial habitats that support the Great Barrier Reef are likely based on forecast changes in some agricultural sectors and projected increases in urban and industrial development, driven partly by economic growth. This in turn will drive increases in direct use of the Region. Land-based run-off Although agricultural practices in the Great Barrier Reef catchment are improving, there is likely to be a significant lag time before water quality improvements in the Region are measured.