Example from Great Barrier Reef, Australia
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (GBR), located along Australia’s Northeastern Coast, contains multiple examples of resilient, healthy coral reefs. The GBR is set up in various zones that range from the highly conserved Preservation Zones, focused on reef health and recovery, to specially designated areas and zones created for multiple uses. One thing that is common to all zones is a focus on benefits and costs to biodiversity, associated with human impacts. Those impacts, both to the environment and to humans, are managed by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), the principal adviser to the Commonwealth Government on the care and development of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
GBR research into socioeconomic costs and benefits is science-based, and aimed at maintaining coral reefs in the best possible condition. Socioeconomic research and management in the GBR is focused on sustainable tourism, fisheries, upland management for water quality, engineering of marine structures, ports and shipping, and climate change. For human enterprises, such as tourism and fishing, surviving and thriving in the 21st century means working with scientists to determine the implications for different industries and projections of future environmental trends; implementing best practices to protect the biological diversity, productivity and ecosystem processes that underpin their industries; and working in the broader society to influence land-use, energy and population policies that can impact human enterprises. The goal of the GBR is the conservative use of resources and liberal application of strategies to protect biological diversity, productivity and resilience.
Socioeconomic Monitoring of Water Quality
Socioeconomic monitoring assesses the contribution a healthy reef ecosystem makes to the economic and social welfare of both adjacent (nearby, regional) communities and for all of Australia.
The Great Barrier Reef is managed as a multi-use Marine Park. Reef-based industries and activities such as tourism and commercial fishing directly contribute about $4.2 billion annually to the Australian economy. Declining water quality directly threatens the health and long-term survival of the Great Barrier Reef, and therefore the ongoing prosperity of the industries and communities it supports.
The social and economic components of the Marine Monitoring Program report on three key indicators:
- Market values of Great Barrier Reef industries and their inputs to regional economies
- Patterns of human use of the Marine Park (i.e., non-commercial recreational activities, tourism and commercial fishing)
- Community and visitor perceptions of and satisfaction with the health of the Great Barrier Reef
One strategy to ensure the GBR waters remain clean, clear, and available for the many different groups is to monitor and become involved in upland projects. Effective use of economic instruments can produce a double dividend; both better environmental outcomes, as well as superior economic performance. There are many instances where landholders are implementing best practice profitably, e.g., cell grazing can increase a landholder’s return, while reducing erosion. Incentive measures can encourage these practices to be implemented more widely. Identifying those land uses where significant change in management approach is required would assist landholders in seeking assistance.
Some alternative market-based strategies the GBR is using:
- Creating market value for the conservation and restoration of riparian and wetland habitats
- Creating statutory market mechanisms, resource management, and trading agreements on freehold and leasehold land, to provide economic incentives to improve land management practices
- An auction system can be an effective method of undertaking works that protect important wetland and riparian areas.
- Property resource management planning
For more details on market based strategies, download a full report of the Economic and Social Value of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
Tourism and recreation are important ways for people to experience and learn about the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef and help conserve it.
Approximately 1.9 million tourists and 4.9 million recreational visitors visit the Great Barrier Reef each year. They are vitally important to the region's economy, bringing in about $1 billion a year.
The GBRMPA and Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service have developed management tools such as permits to provide for tourism opportunities, and to minimize the impacts of tourism activities on the environment. Given the importance of the GBR for tourism and recreation, managers and scientists are investigating tourist and recreational use of the GBR to support the management of visitors to the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.
Commercial and recreational (including charter) fishing constitute a major use of the fisheries resources of the GBR. Zoning allows a variety of fishing to occur, recognizing that different fishing methods affect the natural values of the marine park in different ways. Several zones restrict or prohibit fishing activities completely. Effective management of these activities depends on scientific information about the fisheries resources, and on an understanding of the fishing community.
Other Considerations: Climate Change
Continued research into the causes and consequences of global climate change is important. Accurate predictions of the geographic patterns and rates of change, and the best ways to respond to them, must be available to governments and the community. Sharing scientific resources is particularly important in addressing this global issue. Much research effort is also being focused on understanding the capacity of corals to adapt to warmer waters. GBRMPA has a targeted program to address climate change that outlines the problems and the strategies they are using to address them. For more information see Climate Change on the Great Barrier Reef.