Developing a framework to identify priority hydrological connections to the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area (11652)
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority in collaboration with stakeholders is seeking to improve environmental outcomes by providing a framework for identifying ecosystem functions important to the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. One of the outcomes from developing the framework is to provide certainty to state and local governments and the private sector for investment in housing, infrastructure and natural resource development in growth regions. The framework takes guides future development, identifying how to best protect ecosystem functions in advance of where developments might be suitable, rather than project-by-project assessment. Maintaining the ecosystem functions provided by the Great Barrier Reef catchment is essential for maintaining the health of Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. Ecosystem functions also underpin the ecological services provided to coastal communities for clean water, fish and other species that people use. Continued ecosystem function delivery requires connectivity between coastal ecosystems and the marine environment to be maintained. Land use changes that modify coastal ecosystem functions can potentially break this connectivity through direct removal of habitat, poor water quality and changes to hydrology. Planning and management of these issues is complex and involves many stakeholders and interest groups. Past planning and management of development in the Great Barrier Reef catchment has often failed to recognise or value the critical importance of maintaining natural ecosystem functions of the catchment for the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority is continuing to refine the framework methodology to identify priority areas in the Great Barrier Reef catchment that provide significant ecological function and processes to support the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.