Multiple and cumulative impacts on the GBR: assessment of current status and development of improved approaches for management

Sven Uthicke 100dpi
Led by: Dr Sven Uthicke, AIMS


Project Summary

This project will synthesize experimental and field data from NERP, MTSRF and other work for key coral reef organisms and processes to produce a quantitative approach or how multiple pressures lead to cumulative impacts on the GBR. Applying quantitative tools developed for ecotoxicology and water quality guidelines, we will investigate critical interactive effects, environmental thresholds and their uncertainties, and their application in risk assessments. In addition, we will develop a roadmap that clearly articulates the steps towards a management framework to assess and manage the cumulative impacts of multiple local stressors within the context global pressures on the GBR.

Problem Statements


The GBR is affected by multiple local and global stressors from point source pollution to climate change. While considerable research through MTSRF and NERP has investigated these impacts, there has been little quantitative integration of that work and significant gaps remain in our understanding of how multiple stressors affect key components and processes of reef systems, and how this may vary both spatially and temporally across the GBR. These gaps have hindered the development of effective ecosystem models and management strategies. As a consequence, environmental managers and regulators have been forced to deal with considerable uncertainty concerning critical thresholds, levels of interaction and cumulative impacts when making decisions about developments and activities that potentially impact conservation values of the GBR.

How Research Addresses Problem

This project will synthesise existing knowledge of the impacts of individual and multiple stressors affecting key components (e.g. coral, seagrasses) and processes underpinning the health and resilience of the GBR. We will identify critical gaps to guide future strategic research on cumulative impacts on the GBR, and build a framework that ensures the outcomes of fundamental empirical field and experimental work are incorporated into guidelines, products and processes that enable managers and regulators to critically assess development and land-use scenarios, and optimise management and policy options.

Project Keywords

Cumulative risks and impacts; Multiple pressures; GBR management; Impact assessment.

Project Funding

This project is jointly funded through AIMS, UQ and the Australian Government’s National Environmental Science Programme.

Project Publications
NESP TWQ Project 1.6 Final Report
Final Report
NESP TWQ Project 1.6 Factsheet Outcomes
Outcomes Factsheet