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Kenchington R.A.,University of Wollongong | Day J.C.,Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority
Journal of Coastal Conservation | Year: 2011

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park was established to provide for conservation and ecologically sustainable multiple use of 344,400 km 2 of a large marine ecosystem. Management is based on multiple use, with zoning as a fundamental component of marine spatial planning. The legislative framework, including a specific Act and Regulations, address the objectives of ecosystem-based, integrated management of human uses and impacts consistent with best contemporary understanding of biological diversity. Zoning is one of a suite of management tools that include other spatial and temporal management tools and non-spatial measures including public education, community engagement, codes of environmental best practice, industry partnerships and economic instruments. The first section of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park came into operation in 1981 and the most recent zoning came into operation in mid 2004. The paper discusses some common misunderstandings about zoning and identifies lessons that appear relevant for others addressing management and use of marine ecosystems and natural resources. © 2011 Springer Science+Business Media B.V. Source

Pressey R.L.,James Cook University | Mills M.,James Cook University | Weeks R.,James Cook University | Weeks R.,Wildlife Conservation Society | Day J.C.,Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority
Biological Conservation | Year: 2013

In numerous and important situations across the globe, the transition from designs to actions in conservation planning requires multiple iterations. Regional designs need to be updated progressively as some applied actions depart spatially from the areas notionally selected for conservation, or as some intended actions prove infeasible or undesirable. For researchers and organizations to fully capitalize on the enormous investment in conservation designs around the world, regional designs must be seen, not as static products, but as starting points for ongoing adaptation. We explain 18 reasons why regional designs need to be adapted, either in anticipation of actions or as actions are progressively applied. Our reasons are in four groups: early fine-tuning; mistakes and surprises; new data; and major overhaul. We show that the relative importance of these reasons varies between three planning situations: 1. rapid application, when conservation actions are applied simultaneously across all parts of regional designs; 2. protracted application, when, more typically, actions are applied incrementally over extended periods; and 3. revision of regional designs, either mandated or spontaneous. We then explore the conceptual, operational, institutional, and policy implications of designs being, or needing to be, dynamic. The weaknesses in methods for conservation planning are most starkly revealed by the need to adapt designs during protracted application of actions on private or community-managed lands and marine waters. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. Source

News Article
Site: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment

This story has been updated. The conclusions are in from a series of scientific surveys of the Great Barrier Reef bleaching event — an environmental assault on the largest coral ecosystem on Earth — and scientists aren’t holding back about how devastating they find them. Australia’s National Coral Bleaching Task Force has surveyed 911 coral reefs by air, and found at least some bleaching on 93 percent of them. The amount of damage varies from severe to light, but the bleaching was the worst in the reef’s remote northern sector — where virtually no reefs escaped it. “Between 60 and 100 percent of corals are severely bleached on 316 reefs, nearly all in the northern half of the Reef,” Prof. Terry Hughes, head of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University, said in a statement to the news media. He led the research. [How the Earth itself has upped the stakes for the Paris climate accord] Severe bleaching means that corals could die, depending on how long they are subject to these conditions. The scientists also reported that based on diving surveys of the northern reef, they already are seeing nearly 50 percent coral death. “The fact that the most severely affected regions are those that are remote and hence otherwise in good shape, means that a lot of prime reef is being devastated,” said Nancy Knowlton, Sant Chair for Marine Science at the Smithsonian Institution, in an email in response to the bleaching announcement. “One has to hope that these protected reefs are more resilient and better able to [recover], but it will be a lengthy process even so.” Knowlton added that Hughes, who led the research, is “NOT an alarmist.” Here’s a map that the group released when announcing the results, showing clearly that bleaching hit the northern parts of the reef the worst: Hughes tweeted the map above, writing, “I showed the results of aerial surveys of bleaching on the GreatBarrierReef to my students, And then we wept.” “This is, by far, the worst bleaching they’ve seen on the Great Barrier Reef,” said Mark Eakin, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coral Reef Watch, which partners with the Australian National Coral Bleaching Taskforce. “Our climate model-based Four Month Bleaching Outlook was predicting that severe bleaching was likely for the [Great Barrier Reef] back in December. Unfortunately, we were right and much of the reef has bleached, especially in the north.” Responding to the news Wednesday, the Australian government’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority put out a statement from its chairman Russell Reichelt. “While the data is incomplete, it is clear there will be an impact on coral abundance because of bleaching-induced mortality, mainly in the far north,” the statement said in part. Coral bleaching occurs when corals are stressed by unusually high water temperatures, or from other causes. When this happens, symbiotic algae, called zooxanthellae, leave the corals’ bodies. This changes their color to white and can also in effect starve them of nutrients. If bleaching continues for too long, corals die. There already have been reports of mass coral death around the Pacific atoll of Kiribati this year — and widespread coral bleaching worldwide, a phenomenon that scientists attribute to a strong El Niño event surfing atop a general climate warming trend. Tourism involving the Great Barrier Reef is worth $5 billion annually, and accounts for close to 70,000 jobs, according to the news release from the Australian National Coral Bleaching Taskforce. Recently, journalist Chelsea Harvey reported that some scientists think coral bleaching this extensive could be a sign of “dangerous” climate change caused by humans. [Why dead coral reefs could mark the beginning of ‘dangerous’ climate change] The 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, just after saying that countries should avoid such dangerous interference with the climate, adds that atmospheric greenhouse gas levels should be stabilized “within a time frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change.” Indeed, recent research suggests that Great Barrier Reef corals have a mechanism to protect them if waters warm up beyond normal, but then cool down again before a second warming that crosses the bleaching threshold. However, as oceans continue to warm, it found, that pattern will be less prevalent, meaning that corals will be less able to cope. Past global coral bleaching events have occurred in 1998 and 2010. In 1998, scientists ultimately documented through much follow-up research that 16 percent of the world’s corals died in that event. The full toll of the current global bleaching event has not yet been determined. Yes, you should listen to Bill Nye instead of Sarah Palin on climate change This Baltimore 20-year-old just won a huge international award for taking out a giant trash incinerator These striking numbers show just how fast we’re switching off coal For more, you can sign up for our weekly newsletter here, and follow us on Twitter here.

Peter Gash (L), owner and manager of the Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort, snorkels with Oliver Lanyon and Lewis Marshall, Senior Rangers in the Great Barrier Reef region for the Queenlsand Parks and Wildlife Service, during an inspection of the reef's condition in an area called the 'Coral Gardens' located at Lady Elliot Island and 80 kilometers north-east from the town of Bundaberg in Queensland, Australia, June 11, 2015. REUTERS/David Gray/Files More SYDNEY (Reuters) - Parts of Australia's Great Barrier Reef face permanent destruction if the current El Nino, one of the strongest in two decades, does not ease this month, scientists said on Wednesday. The El Nino is a result of a warming of the ocean in the western Pacific -- ideal conditions for coral bleaching, where coral expels living algae, causing it to calcify. Coral can only survive within a narrow band of ocean temperature. The scientists said areas of the Great Barrier Reef, a world heritage site, are experiencing the worst bleaching in 15 years. (See: Coral Sea's rising surface temprature http://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/rngs/1/928/1362/AUSTRALIA-ENVIRONMENT.jpg) Coral around Lizard Island off the tropical city of Cairns has seen the most widespread bleaching, with 80 percent of its coral bleached under unrelenting sunlight, Dr Anne Hoggett, director, Lizard Island Research Station told Reuters. "Bleaching is a clear signal that living corals are under physiological stress. If that stress is bad enough for long enough, the corals can die," said Dr Russell Reichelt, chairman of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority said. "What happens now will be entirely dependent on local weather conditions," said Reichelt. Scientists said the Great Barrier Reef needs a break in El Nino conditions within weeks if some coral areas are to survive. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology's most recent forecast calls for a continuation of El Nino conditions. This year will be the hottest on record and 2016 could be even hotter due to the El Niño weather pattern, the World Meteorological Organization said. (See: How El Nino affects weather http://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/rngs/1/117/190/index.html) The Great Barrier Reef stretches 2,000 kms (1,200 miles) along Australia's northeast coast and is the world's largest living ecosystem. It brings in billions of dollars a year in tourism revenue. UNESCO's World Heritage Committee last May stopped short of placing the Great Barrier Reef on an "in danger" list, but the ruling raised long-term concerns about its future due to climate change. While the El Nino is set to ease by the middle of 2016, according to the BOM, the weather system - which brings hot, dry conditions to Australia's east coast - is seen as foreshadowing the likely impact of future climate change. "Coral is the canary in the mine," said Hoggett of the looming threat from climate change.

News Article
Site: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment

Scientists have declared that key portions of the Great Barrier Reef — over a thousand miles long and the “largest living structure on the planet,” according to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority — are now seeing the worst coral bleaching in recorded history. “We’re seeing very severe bleaching in the northern part of the reef,” said professor Terry Hughes of James Cook University, where he heads the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies. “And I think that just highlights how precarious the situation has become, whereby severe El Niño events, which happen every few years, are enough to trigger a bleaching event. And it wasn’t always like that.” Hughes spoke after undertaking an aerial survey of 520 reefs north of Cairns, Australia, and encompassing the northern part of the reef. [Scientists say a dramatic worldwide coral bleaching event is now under way] “We found only 4 reefs out of 520 that weren’t bleached to some extent, and more than 95 percent of the reefs were in the top 2 most severe bleaching categories,” Hughes said. A prior bleaching event in 2002 led to only 18 percent of reefs falling into these two categories, Hughes said, meaning that, at present, the “northern barrier reef is much more severely bleached than ever before,” he said. A news release from Australia’s National Coral Bleaching Taskforce describing the result did not mince words, saying that “the most pristine section of the Great Barrier Reef is currently experiencing the worst, mass bleaching event in its history.” The news would appear to worsen an already bad assessment on March 20 by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, which noted up to 50 percent reef mortality off Cape York, in the far northern reef, but still said that many more southern parts of the reef were faring at least moderately well. The Great Barrier Reef hugs the northeastern coast of Australia, over an ocean region that is  roughly three quarters the size of California. So it’s no surprise that not all of it is being affected equally. But the northern reefs are viewed as the most “pristine,” in Hughes’s words. The Great Barrier Reef is a World Heritage Site, the home to 400 species of coral and 1,500 fish species. On listing the site, UNESCO commented that “if only one coral reef site in the world were to be chosen for the World Heritage List, the Great Barrier Reef is the site to be chosen.” Bleaching is a phenomenon that occurs when corals, stressed by warm ocean temperatures, banish from their bodies the algae that live with them and provide them with energy through photosynthesis. Without the algae, the corals not only turn white but can die if the stresses continue long enough. Bleaching is not the same as mortality, though, and right now, just how many corals have died or will die remains unclear. But Hughes said divers in the water are seeking to determine just this, and already, he feels the bleaching event will have a “long-term damaging impact on the northern reefs.” Global warming has long been viewed as a major threat to corals because it raises sea temperatures and because the pH of the ocean shifts toward a more acidic level as carbon uptake increases, and ocean acidification can interfere with the skeleton growth of corals. A 2007 study found that as climate change advances during the 21st century, warming and acidification will lead to “corals becoming increasingly rare on reef systems.” The current bleaching event is most immediately related to the strong El Niño of 2015-2016, although Hughes suggests that it is only the latest few El Niños, presumably enhanced by climate change, that have sparked mass coral bleaching. Indeed, the developments in the Southern Hemisphere are just the latest in a global bleaching event that is now the longest running of its kind on record, according to Mark Eakin, a corals expert with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “This is a lot broader than just what’s going on in the Great Barrier Reef. It’s literally happening across half of the Southern Hemisphere at this point,” Eakin said. The current bleaching event goes back to June 2014, when bleaching appeared in the central and eastern Pacific. It carried on in various locations, including Hawaii and the Caribbean, in 2015 and is continuing this year. Eakin and NOAA declared it a global bleaching event late last year. Eakin said that by the end of 2015, close to a third of corals worldwide had experienced temperatures hot enough to cause bleaching. “This is not like any global bleaching event we’ve seen in the past,” Eakin said. “In the past, these events have been a one-year event. What happened in ’98, happened in ’98. It was all within the scope of less than 12 months.” Scientists have observed only three global coral bleaching events — in 1998, 2010 and now. All three events involved El Niño years, although the current event began well before El Niño was officially declared. 1998 was the most severe — so far — ultimately causing the loss of about 16 percent of the world’s coral reefs at that time, according to Eakin. He said we won’t know the full impact of the current bleaching event until actual reef surveys can be conducted across the world. Coral reefs are at the heart of diverse subsea ecosystems that support large numbers of fish and other marine species and thus benefit humans in multiple ways. They support fisheries and tourism. A 2008 report from Conservation International and several other groups noted that the “net benefit” of coral reefs globally had been estimated at $29.8 billion per year, including benefits from tourism, fisheries, coastal protection and the preservation of biodiversity. That’s why the ongoing coral bleaching event is so alarming — and, according to Eakin, as the Southern Hemisphere summer fades, bleaching could shift back to the Northern Hemisphere later this year. “We’re just in the opening parts of Act 2 at this point,” he said. What Florida’s ancient past tells us about sea level rise today The enormous carbon footprint of food that we never even eat A really bad winter for the Arctic just got even worse For more, you can sign up for our weekly newsletter here, and follow us on Twitter here.

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