GREAT BARRIER REEF
// Outlook Report 2014
10.5.3 Overall summary of long-term outlook
The Great Barrier Reef Region continues to face a combination of extremely serious challenges. The risks affecting the area’s ecosystem and heritage values arise from a number of sources, both within and beyond its boundaries. They are acting in combination to affect, sometimes significantly, the long-term outlook for the Region and the prospects for the outstanding universal value of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. Management arrangements, combined with improvements in land management practices and voluntary behaviour change as a result of stewardship initiatives, are beginning to effectively address some threats. However, more needs to be done at Reef-wide, regional and local scales. Increased understanding of the ecosystem and heritage values, their trends and the factors affecting them will also be critical to improving the long-term outlook of the Region. Understanding the drivers of change is an essential step in providing a context for day-to-day decisions that influence the major trends in the system. There remain significant gaps, especially in understanding and modelling cumulative effects and in identifying thresholds for activities. For some heritage values, their future largely depends on the condition of the natural ecosystem (for example Indigenous heritage, world heritage and national heritage values), while for others (for example historic heritage values) their future relies more on improving understanding and future management arrangements. Recognition of the importance of heritage values has increased in recent years, which provides a springboard for future management initiatives. The cumulative effects of threats and the need to manage all of them to reduce stresses on the Region’s values and to improve its resilience to future pressures are recognised. A business as usual approach to managing threats will not be enough. Achieving a healthy and resilient Great Barrier Reef into the future will require continued focus and even more effective action. The multitude of small decisions, such as anchoring at a popular snorkelling site, and the fewer, larger decisions, such as expanding a port channel, should be consistent with achieving the targets identified for the protection of the property’s outstanding universal value. Without promptly reducing threats, there is a serious risk that resilience will not be improved and there will be irreversible declines in the Region’s values.
© Chloe Schauble