Great Barrier Reef coastal ecosystems

The extent of coastal ecosystems – and the way they function – can have a big impact on the long-term health and resilience of the Great Barrier Reef.

There are 14 coastal ecosystems that are important to the function of the Reef: coral reefs, lagoon floor, islands, open water, seagrasses, coastline, estuaries, freshwater wetlands, forested floodplain, heath and shrublands, grass and sedgelands, woodlands, forests and rainforests.

These provide important links between land, freshwater and marine environments, as well as feeding and breeding grounds for many marine species.

Changes or losses to these coastal ecosystems can lead to a variety of adverse environmental impacts, as well as serious implications for industries dependent on the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

The Informing the Outlook for Great Barrier Reef coastal ecosystems is a technical report on the current status of the catchment and the threats it faces.

Coastal ecosystems and the pressures they face are complex due to the sheer size and scale of the Great Barrier Reef catchment.  The catchment consists of 35 basins – further work to assess coastal ecosystems at this basin scale has been carried out. A method for collecting and collating the data was developed with the help of experts and piloted in some of the Great Barrier Reef basins.

This work will be used to inform the Australian and Queensland governments’ strategic assessment of the World Heritage Area and the Outlook Report 2014.

Ecological functions

Coastal ecosystems provide a range of ecological services that support the Reef, including water distribution, food and habitat, and nutrient and chemical cycling.

For example, many reef species use the catchment for some part of their lifecycle. Adult mangrove jacks live in the Reef, but as larvae they migrate through freshwater rivers and streams and have even been found more than 100 km inland.

Barramundi also use floodplain habitats for parts of their life history.

Poor water quality in these habitats affects the health, survival, growth and breeding of many species that live in the Great Barrier Reef.

  • Free Zoning Maps

    Zoning maps

    If you're heading out on the water, don't forget your free Zoning Map so you know where you can go and what you can do.

  • Whale of a time

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    The Great Barrier Reef is a hive of activity. If you're lucky enough to see a humpback whale from May to September, make sure you keep a safe distance.

  • Important milestone

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    We're delighted to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park's World Heritage listing.

  • Visit the Reef

    Tourism experiences

    Visit our Great Barrier Reef and discover its amazing plants, animals and habitats. There are a range of tourism experiences on offer.

  • What you can do

    What you can do

    Everyone has a role to play in protecting our Great Barrier Reef. Find out what you can do to help protect this Great Australian icon.

  • Report marine strandings

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    If you see sick, dead or stranded marine animals please call RSPCA QLD 1300 ANIMAL
    (1300 264 625)

  • Climate Change and the Great Barrier Reef

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    A Vulnerability Assessment: of the issues that could have far-reaching consequences for the Great Barrier Reef.

  • Current Conditions

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    Current Conditions: Environmental and climatic forecasts for the Great Barrier Reef

  • Reef Guardians Improving the outlook

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    The Great Barrie Reef is facing some challenges. Many people, including Reef Guardians, are making a difference. View the commercial.

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  • Reef Guardian Banana Farmer

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    Reef Guardian farmers are undertaking on-farm practices that are helping to protect the Great Barrier Reef. Watch the commercial.

  • Reef Guardian Cane Farmer

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    Reef Guardian farmers are forward-thinking producers who are doing their bit for the Reef. Watch the commercial.

  • Reef Guardian Fisher

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    Reef Guardian fishers are fishing sustainably for the health of the Reef and their fishery. Watch the commercial.

  • Reef Guardian Marine Aquarium Collector

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    Coral Collectors hand pick corals from various locations to minimise impact and help The Great Barrier Reef. Watch the commercial.

  • Reef Guardian Council

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    Reef Guardian councils across the Great Barrier Reef catchment are demonstrating Reef protection and management. Watch the commercial.

  • Reef Guardian School

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    Reef Guardian schools across Queensland are taking positive action for the environment. Watch the commercial.