NERP TE Project 9.4 Conservation planning for a changing coastal zone (JCU)

The values of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area (GBRWHA) are threatened by coastal development through habitat loss and runoff of sediment, nutrients and pollutants. Future coastal development is difficult to predict because it depends on volatile socio-economic and political factors. With this in mind, we developed a research project that uses spatially explicit scenario planning to identify plausible futures to 2035 for the GBRWHA coastal zone. The method used to produce maps of these scenarios is land-use change modelling using the GIS Idrisi. A governance analysis for the GBR coast is part of the project and is included in the scenario-planning process. Using a conservation planning approach, this project sets out to identify key priorities for restoring and protecting coastal ecosystems in the GBRWHA coastal zone. The objectives are to: - Compile spatial data on the coastal ecosystems and socio-economic characteristics of the GBRWHA coastal zone - Produce spatially explicit land use scenarios for the GBRWHA coastal zone to 2035 - Analyse the governance system in the GBRWHA coastal zone - Identify conservation goals for the GBRWHA coastal zone - Assess impacts of development for assets related to the conservation goals - Bring all the above information together to determine spatial options for allocating protection and restoration actions to achieve goals

The pressure from coastal development and land use change in the coastal zone of the GBRWHA and the lack of environmental management have led the United Nations World Heritage committee to warn the Australian government that better coastal management and policies are required. Maintaining functioning coastal ecosystems and limiting disturbance, pollution risks and run-off are some of the main steps that will allow the GBR to recover and be resilient to future climatic events. Conservation planning determines the best spatial use of limited conservation resources to minimise the loss of valued aspects of the natural world associated with human development. In the context of coastal development and land use change, conservation planning is faced with a significant challenge. The threats to ecosystems and species are highly uncertain. In Queensland, they mostly depend on volatile foreign economic factors that dictate which development will take place and where. Consequently, conservation planning for the GBR coastal zone requires an understanding of plausible future development and land use change. Scenario planning is a well-established method for understanding and planning for the future For conservation issues where the future is highly uncertain, scenario planning allows consideration of different plausible futures and how current management decisions and policies can be adjusted to ensure persistence of the key natural elements in question. As conservation planning is inherently spatial, scenarios are spatially represented in the form of land use maps. The scenarios are designed and used to answer the specific question: How can conservation planning ensure the resilience and health of the GBRWHA and its coastal zone in the light of future coastal development and land use change in the next 25 years?

Principal Investigator
Pressey, Bob, Prof. Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (JCU)
Co Investigator
Augé, Amélie, Dr Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (JCU)

Publications / Data

Tags: marine