Defining the values and connectivity of marine areas in northeast Australia

The Great Barrier Reef is connected to surrounding ecological systems that collectively make up the northeast Australia marine area, including the Torres Strait, the Coral Sea and the Great Sandy Marine Park at Hervey Bay. The close links between these systems mean that actions in one can have unforeseen consequences in another – but a TWQ Hub project is trying to take some of the guesswork out of that equation.

Ocean currents and other mechanisms link the entire ecological system, and understanding how values are connected and interdependent can inform cross-jurisdictional planning and management.

Tropical Water Quality Hub’s Project 3.3.3, led by Johanna Johnson at James Cook University, aims to map the ecological, economic and cultural values of the northeast Australian marine area, and characterise the processes that influence these values and their connectivity at a regional scale.

Ms Johnson said understanding the values and the connections between them would help inform a more coherent approach to policy and management of all marine areas in northeast Australia.

“These areas and their values are connected through a range of mechanisms – including physical connections through ocean currents as well as economic and socio-cultural connections through people and their practices and traditions”, she said.

“The idea behind this project is to improve cross-jurisdictional decision-making and in doing so, help avoid unforeseen consequences in one area from an action taken in another.

“For example, activities that impact seabird or turtle nesting sites in one area could affect the population across the entire northeast Australia region.”

“So far we’ve developed a values framework and will be mapping these values spatially using the eAtlas tool. Next month we’ll be running a 40-person workshop with researchers, managers and stakeholders to literally draw those values and connections on maps and discuss collaborative management priorities.”


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