Collation of data sets (1998-1999)

To determine the main habitat types, all available biophysical, biological and oceanographic datasets were compiled (for example bathymetry, reef morphology, slope, tidal range, substrate type, soft and hard corals). In addition to existing biophysical data, surrogates were used to approximate different habitat types. Independent reef and non-reef experts, many internationally recognised in their fields, advised the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) on what they considered were the primary data sets and the physical factors determining the distribution of specific organisms.

Development of map of bioregions (1999 -2000)

More than 40 sets of Great Barrier Reef data were compiled. This data was then used in workshops by the reef and non-reef experts to help classify the biological and physical diversity of the Great Barrier Reef. Analytical methods also assisted to spatially cluster areas of similar biological and biophysical diversity. Collectively, this information helped to define 70 different habitat types or 'bioregions' (30 reef bioregions and 40 non-reef bioregions) across the Great Barrier Reef that provided a fundamental basis for the Representative Areas Program.

New coastal areas added to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (2000-2001)

Between August 2000 and July 2001, 28 new coastal areas that had previously been excluded were added to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. It is a statutory requirement that Zoning Plans be prepared for any new areas as soon as practicable after being formally recognised as part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park – zoning for these areas was prepared as part of the Representative Areas Program.

Development of operating principles

The biophysical operating principles, which helped to guide decision-making throughout the Representative Areas Program process, were developed by an independent Scientific Steering Committee including marine scientists of international standing in their fields. The Scientific Committee used the best available science to recommend eleven biophysical operational principles including minimum amounts of protection per bioregion, levels of protection for important habitat types, and replication of no-take areas throughout each bioregion.

Another set of four social, economic and cultural operational principles were similarly defined and agreed by another expert committee; these included maximising complementarity of no-take areas with human values, activities and opportunities.

Key publications