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Experimental Environmental-Economic Accounts for the Great Barrier Reef

The Environment and Agriculture Branch produced a set of Experimental Environmental-Economic and Ecosystem accounts for the Great Barrier Reef Region

Reference period
2017
Released
21/08/2017
Next release Unknown
First release

Summary of findings

This publication should be considered experimental, as improvements to methods and new data sources continue to become available. The ABS will be seeking input from key stakeholders with the intention of addressing issues and concerns in future updates.

Overview

The Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is a globally significant area located in the Coral Sea off the coast of Australia. It extends for more than 2,300 kilometres along the north-eastern coast near the Australian state of Queensland. It is the world’s largest coral reef ecosystem and is listed on the register of World Heritage sites. The terrestrial (Great Barrier Reef Catchment Area) and marine (the Reef) ecosystems provide a number of benefits to humans through the generation and use of ecosystem services. The GBR Region consists of the GBR Marine Park along with the GBR Catchment Area, made up of six Natural Resource Management Regions (NRMRs), including Burdekin, Burnett Mary, Cape York, Fitzroy, Mackay Whitsunday and Wet Tropics.

Table 1. NRMR profiles, GBR region, 2011-2016

 NRMR Catchment Area20112016
Total PopulationPopulation densityAboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People %Total PopulationPopulation densityAboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People %
 sq km’000Person per sq km% of total000’Person per sq km% of total
Burdekin
135 251
222.1
1.6
7.1
232.6
1.7
7.9
Burnett Mary
55 612
301.1
5.4
3.7
316.9
5.7
4.4
Cape York
101 721
13.8
0.1
54.9
15.4
0.2
55.4
Fitzroy
157 834
227.8
1.4
4.8
235.5
1.5
5.6
Mackay Whitsunday
9 264
131.5
14.2
4.1
136.7
14.8
4.8
Wet Tropics
20 861
237.4
11.4
10.2
253.3
12.1
10.1
Total GBR Region
480 559
1 133.6
2.4
6.6
1 190.4
2.5
7.2
NRMRs are meshblock approximations of the Department of the Environment and Energy's Natural Resource Management regions to align with Australian Statistical Geography Standard.
Source: Terrestrial Extent and Condition section, 2011 Census of Housing and Population and 2016 Census of Housing and Population.
 

This publication uses the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting: Experimental Ecosystem Accounting (SEEA-EEA) international framework to integrate and track changes for complex biophysical data, economic data and other human activity. As an example, a key finding of this publication is the determination of ecosystem services input and tourism rent using a resource rent methodology. These estimate the value an ecosystem contributes to production after human inputs (such as labour, taxes, capital costs) are accounted for. Ecosystem services inputs were calculated for the Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing and Aquaculture industries and tourism rent was calculated for tourism activity.

Condition summary

A summary of the condition of the GBR Region from 2007-08 to 2014-15 is shown in Table 2.

Table 2. Ecosystem condition summary, GBR region, 2007-08 to 2014-15

 Units2007-082008-092009-102010-112011-122012-132013-142014-15
Marine condition (inshore)
 Coral (a)Score
47
48
47
43
38
39
40
44
 Seagrass (a)Score
35
33
28
21
19
28
34
33
 Water Quality (a)Score
47
44
44
31
37
37
34
43
Climate
 Mean annual sea surface temperature (b)Degrees Celsius
24.7
25.0
25.7
24.5
24.9
25.1
24.9
25.2
 Mean annual sea surface temperature anomaly (b)Degrees Celsius
-0.27
0.30
0.53
-0.38
-0.16
0.12
-0.11
0.24
 Mean annual rainfallmm
1 070
1 090
946
1 633
1 100
903
869
760
Pollutant Loads in selected monitored areas (c)
 Total Suspended SolidsKilotonnes
18 788.0
12 639.0
6 889.8
19 647.0
5 532.0
9 559.0
1 243.3
2 074.6
 Total NitrogenKilotonnes
57.6
36.9
29.3
101.0
27.5
33.7
10.1
8.9
 Total PhosphorusKilotonnes
16.2
9.2
9.2
32.0
7.7
9.3
1.5
2.5
a. Marine condition scores were sourced from the Reef Water Quality Protection Plan, Great Barrier Reef Report Card series (2015 issue).
b. Mean annual sea surface temperature and mean annual sea surface temperature anomaly are reported in calendar years from 2008 to 2015. These measures were sourced from the Bureau of Meteorology, eReefs Marine Water Quality Dashboard, Commonwealth of Australia.
c. Pollutant loads were sourced from the Department of Science, Information Technology and Innovation, Queensland Government.
 

Marine

Following the heavy rainfall events of 2010-11, marine ecosystems showed an overall decline in condition but started to show signs of recovery from 2012-13 to 2014-15. Marine condition is heavily influenced by cyclones, severe weather events, rainfall and pollutant run-off.

  • Water quality scores in the GBR Region and all six NRM regions declined between 2007-08 and 2010-11, after large storm and flooding events, and then fluctuated through to 2014-15. There were five Category 5 cyclones in the region between 2006 and 2015, following a period from 1970 until 2006 where there were no Category 5 cyclones recorded, highlighting the increase in frequency and severity of storms in recent years.
  • From 2005-06 to 2014-15, the coral condition decreased, based on coral condition scores presented in the Great Barrier Reef Report Card 2015. All NRM regions reported an increase from 2013-14 to 2014-15, following large decreases after the 2010-11 flooding events. Coral condition change is a balance between disturbance events and regrowth rates. Repeated disturbances such as the 2016 and 2017 bleaching events and increased cyclone events are likely to both directly damage and reduce coral condition and to impact on regrowth rates. It should be noted that these last two bleaching events occurred outside the reference period for this publication, with respect to coral condition scores, and the impact of these will be reflected in future updates.
  • Seagrass decline is thought to be due to a range of impacts such as deposition of nutrients and sediments from agriculture, and marine-based activities such as dredging and anchor damage. In the last few years, the trending decline of seagrass meadows appears to have slowed and in some cases reversed, in part due to decreased rainfall leading to lower volumes of discharge and river loads.
  • The abundance of selected fish species has remained relatively stable across the majority of NRM region marine extensions between 2001 and 2017. The exception is the Burnett Mary NRM region, which experienced an overall decrease of 11% in the number of fish species recorded between 2001 and 2017.

Terrestrial

The greatest land use within the GBR Catchment Area was Livestock grazing, accounting for 67% of the total land use, in both 2011 and 2016. A matrix land account that integrates land use and dynamic land cover is presented in the Terrestrial Extent and Condition section of this publication.

  • The predominance of Livestock grazing means that, as well as being a major source of value to the agriculture industry, the nature of grazing activity and practices will have an influence over the ecosystem regulatory services capacity of the catchment. This is discussed in more detail in the Ecosystem Regulatory Services section of this publication.
  • In recent years, Livestock grazing expanded, in net terms, into land which was previously classed as Vacant residential and Other agriculture - cropping, while losing land, in net terms, to land classed to Extractive industries.
  • Pollutant loads move from land into rivers, then into the Marine Park, and are monitored as 'river loads', measured at catchment end-of-system sites. Monitored pollutant loads leaving catchments vary considerably from year-to-year, mainly due to differences in annual rainfall and runoff. Overall, the Burdekin and Fitzroy NRM regions contributed the highest quantity of total suspended solids (fine sediment) and nutrient river loads between 2006-07 and 2014-15.
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  1. No land use information available.
  2. Land uses categories have been created almagated for the presentation of this graph.
  3. This includes land uses that could not be allocated to AVPCC.

Biodiversity

  • Biodiversity in the GBR Region contributes significantly to the health of the Reef and its Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) and is incorporated in estimates of these factors.
  • In the GBR Region between 1994 and 2017, Birds and Reptiles showed little overall movement between threat categories. Four extra species of Mammals became Vulnerable, while Fish and Invertebrates saw two and three species, respectively, become Endangered. Frogs fared worst among the groups of fauna, with ten species added to the Endangered category, one species to Vulnerable, and five to Near Threatened. The primary threat to each faunal group was habitat loss and degradation; other key threats across all groups were feral species and climate change. Species in scope are those deemed threatened according to the Queensland Nature Conservation Act 1992, with a distribution range within the GBR Region.

Ecosystem services

A summary of benefits produced using ecosystem services in physical measures for the GBR Region (2006-07 to 2015-16) is presented in Table 3.

Table 3. Benefits produced using ecosystem services in physical measures, GBR region, 2007-08 to 2015-16

 2007-082008-092009-102010-112011-122012-132013-142014-152015-16
Provisioning Services
 Food - Meat cattletonnes
496 935.7
476 429.3
424 719.8
451 056.3
469 908.0
457 618.4
570 682.4
586 460
na
 Food - Sugartonnes
29 404 592.0
29 299 735.0
28 262 411.0
23 054 570.0
23 430 217.8
25 738 628.0
28 483 702.0
29 591 927.9
na
 Food - Other foodtonnes
3 092 298
2 323 465
2 634 682
2 015 614
2 427 179
2 124 068
2 297 696
2 231 453
na
 Agricultural materialstonnes
218.6
459.2
166.1
201.5
278.5
277.2
314.8
379.1
na
 Fishingtonnes
10 967
12 061
11 525
10 645
9 052
9 837
8 889
8 593
8 259
 Aquaculturetonnes
4 500.5
4 270.5
5 898.8
5 492.6
5 056
5 064.3
5 397.8
6 662.1
6 470.9
 Timber
na
na
na
914 988.5
977 852.2
726 365.9
735 115.4
886 748.2
na
Regulating Services
 Carbon stored (a)Megatonnes
2 849.0
2 844.3
2 841.7
2 838.7
2 833.4
2 831.7
2 830.7
2 827.8
2 826.7
Cultural Services
 Visitorsmillions
15.2
15.2
15.0
16.4
14.5
17.8
17.3
16.9
17.8
a. Amount of carbon stored at the end of the financial year
na - data not available
Source: Summary of data from tables in relevant sections of this publication.
 
  • Of the provisioning services identified, sugar provided the greatest contribution in volume in 2014-15, with 29.6 million tonnes produced; this was an increase of 4% from 2013-14.
  • The biocarbon stored in the GBR Catchment Area decreased by 21.2 megatonnes (-1%) from 2007-08 to 2014-15, highlighting changes to landscape within the region.
     

The value of the benefits for selected ecosystem services is summarised in Table 4. Meat cattle had the greatest value of production in the region, accounting for 43% of the total food production in 2014-15. Tourism consumption peaked in 2012-13, with total consumption of $9,432 million.

Table 4. Value of benefits produced using ecosystem services, GBR region, 2006-07 to 2014-15

  Units2006-072007-082008-092009-102010-112011-122012-132013-142014-15
Provisioning Services
 Food - Meat cattle$m
na
1 594.3
1 598.0
1 338.5
1 478.6
1 537.8
1 423.5
1 887.0
2 393.4
 Food - Sugar$m
na
788.7
992.4
1268.4
867.3
1 034.8
1 055.6
1 139.8
1 195.2
 Food - Other food$m
na
1 799.4
1 813.4
1 667.2
1 690.1
1 693.1
2 011.2
1 891.2
1 923.7
 Agricultural materials$m
na
177.2
205.6
220.1
213.2
254.6
237.3
251.9
201.8
 Timber$m
na
na
na
na
80.4
75.0
59.4
59.9
77.3
 Fishing$m
na
118.1
127.0
125.8
112.3
100.1
109.1
115.6
105.2
 Aquaculture$m
na
49.4
58.9
50.5
62.8
62.0
60.6
67.8
86.0
Cultural Services
 Tourism consumption$m
8 093.0
8 387.9
8 036.7
8 395.6
7 692.9
9 066.2
9 435.1
8 976.1
9 167.1
na - data not available
Source: Summary of data from tables in relevant sections of this publication.
 

The impacts of severe weather events in 2010-11 (including extremely high rainfall, cyclones and flooding) on agricultural production appear to have been broadly negative, with marked declines in tonnes produced in sugar (-19%), horticulture (-26%) and broadacre crops (-25%). Livestock meat production appears to have been only modestly impacted. A relationship can be drawn between agricultural production and practices and the impact of agricultural runoff on water quality, but the data also suggests that the timing of any such impacts may be determined more by peak rainfall events than by timing of productive activity.

Table 5 presents a summary of ecosystem service input (resource rent) for selected industries in the GBR Region.

Table 5. Ecosystem service input (resource rent method) selected industries, GBR region, 2006-07 to 2014-15

IndustryUnits2006-072007-082008-092009-102010-112011-122012-132013-142014-15
Ecosystem services input (resource rent method)
 Agriculture$m
na
205.4
433.8
410.4
636.9
980.7
1 049.1
972.7
1 226.5
 Forestry$m
na
na
na
na
9.4
16.5
11.2
15.3
28.5
 Fishing and Aquaculture$m
na
35.0
42.0
42.0
35.0
44.0
39.0
46.0
45.0
Tourism rent
 Tourism (a)$m
310.6
332.6
290.9
320.7
299.0
404.2
535.0
470.0
523.3
a. Tourism rent contains ecosystem services input as well as other non-produced tourist attraction inputs; see Tourism section and Explanatory Notes
na - data not available
Source: Summary of data from tables in relevant sections of this publication
 
  • Ecosystem services input, as calculated by the resource rent method, is the residual value after deducting labour, materials and produced capital as inputs to production. It is defined as the input by ecosystem services to production.
  • In 2014-15 the ecosystem services input for GBR Region Agriculture was $1.2 billion. This ecosystem services input was 44% of Gross Operating Surplus for Agriculture, and has risen as a share of Gross Operating Surplus from 12% in 2007-08. This rise was due to a number of factors, including the end of the Millennium Drought during the 2000s and declining costs of produced capital since the Global Financial Crisis.
  • Tourism rent in 2015-16 was $0.6 billion, or 15.6% of tourism GVA. Tourism rent is the resource rent calculated as a value extracted from all tourist attractions. Ecosystems feature prominently among tourist attractions in the GBR Region.

Expenditure of environmental goods and services

  • In terms of the total $494 million expenditure on environmental goods and services aimed at protecting the Reef, local government was the largest contributor to these expenditures, accounting for $229 million (46% of total), followed by the Australian Government with $145 million (29%), Queensland Government $78 million (16%) and non-government sources $41 million (8%).

Tourism

  • The number of visitors to the GBR Region increased from 15.2 million in 2007-08 to 17.8 million in 2015-16. This change is reflected in the value of direct tourism consumption, which increased from $8.4b to $10.0b.
  • The number of visits to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park increased from 1.9 million to 2.3 million across the reference period. The value of revenue collected in the Marine Park increased by 20% in the same period, from $7.3 million to $8.8 million, due to gradual increases in part-day and full-day charges.
  • Tourism employed about 46,000 people in the GBR Region in 2015-16. Between 2010-11 and 2014-15 tourism employment contributed about 8.2%, on average, of total employment in the region. This would make tourism, if counted as an industry, one of the more significant employing industries in the region. As a comparison, Education and Training jobs made up about 8.1% of total jobs in 2011-12.
  • The Wet Tropics NRM region, centred around Cairns, records much higher tourism expenditure than in other NRM regions with comparable or greater numbers of total visitors. The region sees significantly more international visitors (4.8 million visitors in 2015-16) than any other NRM region. The attractiveness of the area is likely due in part to its positioning as a well-known destination, specifically for tropical ecosystem related attractions. Cairns and Port Douglas are two of the major launching point for tours to the Great Barrier Reef, as the Reef is quite close to the shoreline in this part of the catchment compared with further south.

Fishing and aquaculture

  • This account highlights linkages between changes to the regulatory environment for fishing in the GBR Region and subsequent changes to the richness of fish species observed. Between 2003-04 and 2004-05 the value of fishing production in the region fell by $45.7 million (25%); fishing tonnage produced fell by 27%, number of licences was down 16% and fishing effort in person days fell 22%. Production per person day of effort was largely unchanged during this transition. The GBR Marine Park was rezoned in 2004, coinciding with a Commonwealth government buy back of a portion of commercial fishing licence quotas and a number of other drivers of reduced fishing activity which are detailed in the relevant section of this publication
  • With the reduction in fishing production, the fish abundance scores observed in the Marine Park show that abundance has been substantially maintained, exhibiting fluctuations in year to year observations but with no clear decline trend. Fish abundance scores are a measure of marine condition - for further discussion, refer to the section on Marine Extent and Condition.
  • Across the full reporting period 2001-02 to 2015-16, the value of fishing production decreased by 46%, from $190 million to $104 million. Physical production decreased by 46%, from 15,341 tonnes to 8,259 tonnes, over the same period. Licence numbers and fishing effort also decreased by 52% and 45% respectively.
  • The resource rent of fishing increased by 62%, from $28 million to $45 million, between 2004-05 and 2014-15.

Water

  • The use of water for irrigation in agricultural activities in the GBR Catchment Area has increased from 2010-11 to 2015-16 by an estimated 135%, from 773,979 ML in 2010-11 to 1,821,593 ML in 2015-16. Burdekin was the NRM region that accounted for the largest proportion of water use in the GBR Catchment Area, representing 58% of water used for agricultural activity in 2015-16.
  • In 2014-15, the gross value of irrigated agricultural production in the GBR Catchment Area was $2.2 billion. Of this, Sugar had the highest value of irrigated production, accounting for 32% of the total in 2014-15, and used 69% of total water applied to agricultural activity.
  • As of June 2016, 760,649 ML of water was stored in large urban dams and 4,429,438 ML of water was stored in large rural dams.

Carbon

  • 'Forests' stored the greatest amount of carbon above and below ground in the GBR Region, with a total of 2,134 Mt C (76%) in 2015-16, followed by 'Grasslands' and 'Mangroves', with 435 Mt C (15%) and 149 Mt C (5%) respectively. While 'Mangroves' only accounted for 5% of the total stored carbon in the GBR Region, they recorded the highest density, 687 tonnes per hectare.
  • The rate of decrease in carbon stocks was very rapid between 1989 and 1997, but has slowed in recent years. This reduced rate of loss of biocarbon can be attributed to forest regrowth and slowing of losses from grasslands, resulting in net gain of forest carbon stocks from 2008 to present. Although forest carbon has increased, there has still been an overall net decrease of biocarbon stored in the GBR Region.

Marine extent and condition

The SEEA-EEA defines ecosystem assets as 'spatial areas containing a combination of biotic and abiotic components and other characteristics that function together' (para 4.1 SEEA-EEA). Ecosystem assets can be measured in terms of extent and condition as well as expected ecosystem service flows. This section presents marine use and condition accounts for the Great Barrier Reef marine area (the Reef), using detailed information from the Great Barrier Reef Report Card series, the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) and the Australian Institute of Marine Sciences (AIMS). The Great Barrier Reef (GBR) provides economic and community benefits in the form of tourism, employment, cultural services (tourism and participation in cultural activities) and provisioning services (aquaculture, fish, etc.). Marine condition is likely to impact the future economic and community benefits provided by this unique ecosystem.

Asset

While an asset account is not presented for the Reef marine area, the following areas were reported by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) in 2013 for the extent of marine assets:

  • Mangroves - 2,070 km²
  • Seagrass meadows
    • Shallow (<15m from surface) - 5,700 km²
    • Deep (>15m from surface) - 40,000 km²
  • Coral reefs - 26,000 km²
  • Lagoon floor - 210,000 km²
  • Shoals - 278 km².
     

Marine use

A marine use account, analogous to the land use accounts, was developed using zoning data from the GBRMPA. Zoning offers insights into the various uses of the marine area, in lieu of the more detailed information available for terrestrial areas which can be compiled into land accounts. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Zoning Plan 2003, which came into effect on 1 July 2004, was enacted to improve protection for the biodiversity within the park. The plan helps 'to ensure that a diverse range of other benefits and values of the Marine Park, including recreational, cultural, educational and scientific values are protected' (Zoning, Permits and Plans, GBRMPA).

Table 1 below sets out the area of each zone type before and after 1 July 2004, while Figure 1 displays the current zoning in a map. The 2004 re-zoning resulted in a large decline in the amount of area classified as 'General Use', with large increases in the area of 'Habitat Protection' and 'Marine National Park'. Data on uses within the Marine Park are present in other sections. The Fishing and Aquaculture section presents information on commercial fishing within the GBR Region and the Tourism section presents data on visits to the Marine Park, including Environmental Management Charge information.

Table 1. Marine zoning (use) account, GBR marine park, at 01 July 2004

Zone TypeOpening Area pre 2004 Rezoning sq kmNet change in AreaClosing Area post 2004 Rezoning sq km
Preservation Zone
344
344
688
Marine National Park
15 842
98 843
114 685
Scientific Research
34
310
344
Conservation Park
344
9 643
9 988
Buffer
2 066
3 100
5 166
Habitat Protection
52 349
44 771
97 120
General Use
268 288
-157 012
111 276
Total GBR Marine Park
339 268
0
339 268
sq km - square kilometres
Source: Table 6.4 Changes in Zone Area following 2004 Rezoning, GBRMPA, 2009, p.126.
 

Figure 1. GBR marine park zoning, 2004 - present

Figure 1. GBR marine park zoning, 2004 - present

Figure 1. GBR marine park zoning, 2004 - present

Image of a map showing the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park zoning, 2004 to present.

The map shows the area of Queensland containing the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park boundary, Indicative Reef boundary, Great Barrier Reef Catchment boundary, Towns, Natural Resource Management Region, Mainland and Islands.

Within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park boundary the map shows the zones of; general use, habitat protection, Conservation Park, buffer, Scientific research, Scientific research (closed to public access), Marine National Park and Preservation.

Map projection: Unprojected Geographic Horizontal Datum: Geocentric Datum of Australia, 1994
Data source: Department of Natural Resource and Mines (Natural Resource Management Regional boundaries clipped to the Great Barrier Reef Catchment) August 2017

Source: Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA)

Marine condition

For the purpose of this section marine condition was established using the following key characteristics of the Marine Park ecosystems:

  • Water Quality
  • Coral
  • Seagrass
  • Fish Abundance.
     

Data on these characteristics were retrieved from a variety of sources.

Water quality

Water quality scores retrieved from the Great Barrier Reef Report Card Series are indexes based on a number of remotely sensed measures. Water quality scores have fluctuated since 2005-06, and generally fell to their lowest point in 2010-11, after large storm and flooding events (Graph 1). In 2014-15 the Wet Tropics and the Fitzroy NRM regions both reported poor condition, while all other NRM regions reported moderate condition. Water quality was not evaluated for the Cape York and the Burnett Mary NRM regions because of limited ground-level data available for validation.

Note that in 2011-12 there were major improvements to the remote sensing methods to measure water quality in the GBR Marine Park. The full historical time-series was updated by the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) - it is available through the eReefs Marine Water Quality Dashboard. A summary of these data are presented in Table 2 below.

Users should note that a revised water quality metric was developed in 2015-2016 as an initial step towards integrating multiple streams of data to measure and report water quality condition. The previous metric relied exclusively on satellite data, whereas the new metric is underpinned by the eReefs biogeochemical model integrated with satellite images for improved accuracy in what is commonly referred to as a data assimilation process. The Great Barrier Reef Report Card 2016, scheduled for publication in September 2017 (and not available at the time of release of this publication), will utilise the CSIRO eReefs marine water quality model for its ability to deliver a more accurate water quality assessment than reporting based on remote sensing.

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Values are indexed scores scaled from 0-100; 0-20 = very poor, 21-40 = poor, 41-60 = moderate, 61-80 = good, 81-100 = very good.

Source(s): Reef Water Quality Protection Plan, Great Barrier Report Card 2015, Commonwealth and Queensland governments.

The BoM produces a number of water quality measures using satellite imagery. Table 2 indicates that chlorophyll-a concentration, for the inshore marine water bodies within the GBR Region, increased by 23% between 2002 and 2016, from 0.62 mg m-3 to 0.76 mg m-3. These concentrations were above the "trigger value" of 0.45 mg m-3 (footnote1); that is, the value that should trigger management actions, according to the Water Quality Guidelines for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The Fitzroy, Mackay Whitsunday and Cape York NRM regions reported the highest concentrations of non-algal particulates (NAP), with concentrations of 4.41, 2.45 and 2.35 g m-3, respectively. These scores exceeded the trigger value of 2.0 g m-3 for NAP. A full time series of data for each measure are available in the Data downloads section.

Table 2. Selected inshore marine water quality measures, by NRM marine region, 2002 to 2016

 2002Net change2016
 Cl-aCDOMNAPCl-aCDOMNAPCl-aCDOMNAP
 mg m-3m-1g m-3mg m-3m-1g m-3mg m-3m-1g m-3
Burdekin
0.71
0.12
2.48
0.00
0.00
-0.32
0.71
0.12
2.16
Burnett Mary
0.53
0.07
0.94
0.20
0.04
0.36
0.73
0.11
1.30
Cape York
0.61
0.09
2.21
0.16
0.03
0.14
0.77
0.12
2.35
Fitzroy
0.65
0.10
3.00
0.28
0.07
1.41
0.93
0.17
4.41
Mackay Whitsunday
0.45
0.07
1.95
0.11
0.02
0.50
0.56
0.09
2.45
Wet tropics
0.89
0.14
2.69
-0.02
0.00
-0.76
0.87
0.14
1.93
Total GBR Region
0.62
0.09
2.43
0.14
0.04
0.46
0.76
0.13
2.89
Water quality measures are yearly mean concentrations
Cl-a - Chlorophyll-a concentration
CDOM - Colour dissolved organic matter
NAP - Non-algal particulates (suspended solids)
Source: eReefs Marine Water Quality Dashboard, Bureau of Meteorology, Commonwealth of Australia.

Coral

The presence of coral is central to the GBR Region being listed as a World Heritage Area. It is also critical for fish populations, the provision of recreational activities (such as snorkelling), and for other important ecosystem services, such as coastal hazard risk reduction and adaptation.

Inshore reefs of the Great Barrier Reef form only a small part of the World Heritage Area, but their health has high significance, and their proximity to land exposes them to additional threats. Inshore reefs are used extensively for recreational activities, such as fishing. They are more exposed to river runoff and pollution from the adjacent catchment, coastal development and shipping and many are located where bleaching risk is high. Inshore reefs are therefore specifically monitored to support the Reef Water Quality Protection Plan.

Graph 2 below shows condition scores measured at inshore sites, which are based on a number of variables. Overall condition score for coral is the average of component scores for combined hard and soft coral cover, coral change, proportional macroalgal cover, juvenile density and coral community composition (footnote 2). In 2015 the Reef Water Quality Protection Plan method for measuring inshore coral condition changed. The time series for coral was hindcast so that results were comparable with the 2014-15 results.

The Fitzroy region reported the lowest coral condition score during this period and recorded the largest overall decline. All NRM regions showed an increase from 2013-14 to 2014-15 following large decreases after the 2010-11 flooding events. Cumulative impacts, including the recent bleaching events and a series of category 3, 4 and 5 cyclones, are likely to impede recovery. No coral monitoring occurs in the Cape York or Burnett Mary regions under the Marine Monitoring Program.

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Values are indexed scores scaled from 0-100; 0-20 = very poor, 21-40 = poor, 41-60 = moderate, 61-80 = good, 81-100 = very good.

Source(s): Reef Water Quality Protection Plan, Great Barrier Report Card 2015, Commonwealth and Queensland governments.

Hard coral cover is a component of inshore coral condition, and data on this characteristic is also available for offshore areas. Table 3 and 4 below present hard coral cover as a measure of condition for coral across the marine area. Users should note that the two tables contain an average of monitored data points drawn from two monitoring programs, the inshore Marine Monitoring Program (MMP) and the offshore Long-Term Monitoring Program (LTMP).

The tables below show coral condition up to the survey season of 2015-16, a year in which coral condition had improved in the absence of major disturbances prior to the two recent mass bleaching events. In 2017, however, there was significant decline in hard coral cover in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park overall, especially in the northern parts of the Reef. For long-term trend estimates of hard coral coverage based on offshore coral observations and modelled to cover the entire Reef rather than only monitored sites, refer to GBR Condition Summary 2016-17, published by AIMS. This report shows that "over the past 12 months hard coral cover on the Great Barrier Reef declined by about a quarter".

Table 3. Average hard coral cover percentage, by NRM marine region, GBR region, 2007-2017

 20072008200920102011201220132014201520162017
Burdekinaverage %
21.8
12
22.1
14.3
16
7.0
19.3
10.9
22.4
21.1
23.2
 no. reefs
14
16
14
16
15
17
14
15
11
17
12
Burnett Maryaverage %
70.5
64.8
15.6
10.6
1.6
9.4
3.9
14.4
19.7
32.5
53.1
 no. reefs
2
4
2
4
2
4
2
4
2
4
2
Cape Yorkaverage %
30.6
na
33.9
na
37.9
na
31.1
na
14.1
na
7.4
 no. reefs
7
-
7
-
7
-
7
-
7
-
7
Fitzroyaverage %
34.5
31.5
32.1
22.4
19.6
21.1
21.9
25.0
27.7
29.9
40.5
 no. reefs
12
29
13
29
13
30
13
31
14
27
11
Mackay Whitsundayaverage %
37
36.9
32
28.5
26.9
29.9
29.8
33.1
31.6
36.6
35.4
 no. reefs
14
7
14
7
14
7
14
7
12
6
9
Wet Tropicsaverage %
26.1
26.7
30.9
32.2
24.8
21.2
22.9
23.2
22
31.4
19.8
 no. reefs
20
22
19
22
21
24
19
20
17
24
14
GBR Totalaverage %
30.5
28.3
29.3
23.5
23.0
18.4
23.7
21.8
23.9
29.1
26.5
 no. reefs
70
80
70
80
74
80
70
80
65
79
56
na - not applicable
- nil or rounded to zero (including null cells)
Notes
Some reefs were unable to be geocoded to a NRM region so GBR sums may not total.
Hard coral cover percentage is based on a number of reefs sampled and not the total number of reefs in the GBR.
Source: Long-Term Monitoring Program (LTMP), Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) and Marine Monitoring Program (MMP), a collaboration of GBRMPA, CSIRO, James Cook University, the University of Queensland and AIMS.
 

The Northern inshore and Northern offshore GRMPA Management sectors have seen great declines in coral cover since 2007 but recovered somewhat in 2016. Users should again note that northern hard coral cover measured in the Long-Term Monitoring Program declined substantially in 2017 and to refer to GBR Condition Summary 2016-17 published on the AIMS website.

Table 4. Average hard coral cover percentage, by GBRMPA management sector, GBR region, 2007-2017

 20072008200920102011201220132014201520162017
Northern inshoreaverage %
32.4
37.5
35.7
42.3
34.8
29.5
27.7
18.8
17.3
25.1
13.1
 no. reefs
9
4
9
4
9
4
9
4
9
4
7
Northern offshoreaverage %
25.8
na
29.6
na
34.7
na
28.9
na
15.6
na
8.4
 no. reefs
6
0
6
0
6
0
6
0
6
0
6
Southern inshoreaverage %
30.1
27.5
30.9
29
22.9
21.5
24.4
23.7
24.4
31.3
22.9
 no. reefs
33
33
32
33
36
33
32
32
27
33
20
Southern offshoreaverage %
31.6
28.1
24.5
17.6
15.5
14.9
19.7
21.3
27.9
27.8
38.5
 no. reefs
22
43
23
43
23
43
23
39
23
42
23
GBR Totalaverage %
30.5
28.3
29.3
23.5
23
18.4
23.7
21.8
23.9
29.1
26.5
 no. reefs
70
80
70
80
74
80
73
80
65
79
56
na - not applicable
- nil or rounded to zero (including null cells)
Notes
Some reefs were unable to be geocoded to a GBRMPA Management Sector region so GBR totals may not add up.
Hard coral cover percentage is based on a number of reefs sampled and not the total number of reefs in the GBR.
Source: Long-Term Monitoring Program (LTMP), Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) and Marine Monitoring Program (MMP), a collaboration of GBRMPA, CSIRO, James Cook University, the University of Queensland and AIMS.
 

Hard coral cover percentage change is a product of the balance of disturbances and regrowth. Bleaching and poor water quality can affect rates of regrowth, therefore contributing to declines in coral cover and condition through reduced resilience (footnote 3). Crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks and cyclones have been identified as leading causes of disturbance and decline in coral cover (footnote 4).

Tables 3 and 4 show that in recent years up to 2016 there was an increase in coral cover in some sectors and NRM regions due to the absence of new disturbances. The GBR experienced mass coral bleaching events in 1998, 2002, 2016 and then again in 2017 which was beyond the 2017 reporting period covered by these tables. Steeper declines in hard coral cover for 2017 reporting year have been recorded in GBR Condition Summary 2016-17 published by AIMS, showing the impact of the 2016 bleaching event. The Reef experienced the worst coral bleaching event on record in 2016, due to high sea surface temperatures combined with a strong El Niño event - GBRMPA have estimated that 29% of shallow-water coral cover on the GBR was lost as result of this bleaching (footnote 3).

Coral bleaching has had a varied impact across the GBR Marine Park as highlighted in Figure 2 below. Bleaching in 2016 did not strongly impact southern areas such as Fitzroy and Burnett Mary. Although marine condition has not been reported since Cyclone Debbie in late March 2017, it is expected that there has since been further decline in coral condition due to that cyclone and these two bleaching events.

Figure 2. Extent and severity of bleaching effects, 2016 and 2017

Figure 2. Extent and severity of bleaching effects, 2016 and 2017

Figure 2. Extent and severity of bleaching effects, 2016 and 2017

Image of two comparative maps from 2016 and 2017 showing the extent and severity of bleaching effects from 2016 and 2017.

Both images show the most severe bleaching and no or negligible bleaching along the Queensland coastline containing Cairns, Townsville and Mackay.

Source: ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies

Note: Composite map of surveyed corals across the 2016 and 2017 back-to-back bleaching events. Not all data is shown, only reefs at either end of the bleaching spectrum: Red circles indicate reefs undergoing most severe bleaching (60% or more of visible corals bleaching) Green circles indicate reefs with no or only minimal bleaching (10% or less coral bleaching).

Seagrass

Seagrass meadows are an important part of the Outstanding Universal Values and ecological functions of the Reef. As well as stabilising sea-floor sediments, seagrass meadows are the habitat for a diverse range of species including globally significant populations of dugongs, fish, turtles and other animals, some of which are becoming endangered. Seagrass meadows also support a range of carbonate-secreting organisms that may contribute to removal of atmospheric carbon.

In the last few years, the trending decline of seagrass meadows appears to have slowed and in some cases reversed. Graph 3 shows that inshore seagrass condition reached its lowest point in 2011-12 and has since recovered and then stabilised. Seagrass decline is thought to be due to a range of impacts such as reduced light (cloud cover from storms, land-based runoff), cyclone-induced scouring of the seabed, deposition of nutrients and sediments from agriculture, and marine-based activities such as dredging and tourism (for example, localised impacts from anchor damage).

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Values are indexed scores scaled from 0-100; 0-20 = very poor, 21-40 = poor, 41-60 = moderate, 61-80 = good, 81-100 = very good

Source(s): Reef Water Quality Protection Plan, Great Barrier Report Card 2015, Commonwealth and Queensland governments.

Graph 4 shows that the Fitzroy NRM region has had the greatest decline in seagrass condition over the period of 2005-06 to 2014-15. In 2014-15, most NRM marine regions experienced poor condition with the exceptions of Burdekin which reported moderate condition, and Fitzroy which reported very poor condition. The improvement in condition was largely a result of an increase in abundance and reproductive effort, indicating localised recovery after Cyclone Yasi in 2010-11.

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Values are indexed scores scaled from 0-100; 0-20 = very poor, 21-40 = poor, 41-60 = moderate, 61-80 = good, 81-100 = very good

Source(s): Reef Water Quality Protection Plan, Great Barrier Report Card 2015, Commonwealth and Queensland governments.

Fish abundance

The diversity of fish species in the marine area is recognised in the World Heritage listing of the GBR Region. There are 1,625 species in the area, of which 1,400 are coral reef species. The presence and abundance of selected fish species is considered an ecosystem condition measure. Table 5 presents data from the AIMS Long-Term Monitoring Program, presented by NRM marine region.

Table 5. Average fish abundance scores, by NRM marine region, GBR region, 2001 to 2017

 200120032005200720092011201320152017
Burdekinavg. abundance
56.2
60.3
65.6
57.6
60.3
57.2
57.2
62.9
60.8
 no. reefs
9
9
8
9
9
9
9
8
8
Burnett Maryavg. abundance
58.0
71.0
69.5
69.0
63.0
37.0
33.5
42.0
51.5
 no. reefs
2
2
2
2
2
2
2
2
2
Cape Yorkavg. abundance
81.1
81.6
83.6
83.7
86.3
82.0
85.0
80.9
76.4
 no. reefs
7
7
7
7
7
7
7
7
7
Fitzroyavg. abundance
62.1
63.0
71.1
66.0
65.9
59.3
57.2
54.9
59.8
 no. reefs
9
9
9
8
9
9
9
9
9
Mackay Whitsundayavg. abundance
57.7
60.8
60.1
63.0
65.1
60.9
63.9
60.9
62.8
 no. reefs
9
9
9
9
9
9
9
9
9
Wet Tropicsavg. abundance
66.7
69.0
68.9
68.6
68.8
67.0
69.0
66.9
64.5
 no. reefs
9
10
10
10
10
10
10
10
11
GBR Totalavg. abundance
64.3
66.9
69.8
67.8
68.8
64.0
65.1
64.2
64.4
 no. reefs
46
47
46
46
47
47
47
46
47
Notes
Some reefs were unable to be geocoded to an NRM Region region so GBR totals may not add up.
Average fish species abundance is based on a sample of reefs and not the total number in each region.
Source: Long-Term Monitoring Program (LTMP), Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS).
 

Fish species presence data were sourced from the Long-Term Monitoring Program (LTMP) produced by the AIMS. Data are collected across sites designed to monitor the impact of the 2004 re-zoning. The numbers of fish sighted in each sample area were averaged per reef and referenced against a list of 'easy-to-identify' species. The methods used depend on direct observations and the location of collections slightly change from year to year and this may impact on the reliability of estimates. Threatened species information is also presented in the Biodiversity section of this publication.

Table 5 shows that the abundance of selected fish species has remained relatively stable across the majority of NRM marine regions between 2001 and 2017. The exception is the Burnett Mary NRM region, which experienced an overall decrease of 13% in the number of fish species recorded between 2001 and 2017, despite an increase of 35% in the number of species between 2013 and 2017. The Mackay Whitsunday NRM region recorded an increase of 8% in fish species over the period from 2001 to 2017, the largest increase among the NRM regions.

Marine condition drivers

The Reef condition is affected by factors related to climate change, including rising sea surface temperature, rising sea levels, ocean acidification, severe weather events and increased cyclone intensity, as well as pollutant run-off, crown-of-thorns outbreaks and other natural and anthropogenic disturbances. Below are statistics presented on some of the key drivers of marine condition. These help provide context in interpreting marine condition. Note that pollutant run-off (river loads) is explored in the Terrestrial Extent and Condition section.

Sea surface temperature

Graph 5 shows that 2016 recorded the highest sea surface temperature (SST) over the period of 2002-2016 in the GBR Region, with a yearly mean temperature of 26 degrees Celsius. The yearly mean sea surface temperature anomaly (SSTA) for 2016 was 0.83 degrees Celsius above the average long-term average (see Methodology). Data on sea surface temperature and sea surface temperature anomaly were sourced from the Bureau of Meteorology eReefs Marine Water Quality Dashboard. Refer to the Data downloads section for a time series (from 2002-2016) of this information.

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Yearly (calendar years) mean sea surface temperatures for all water bodies for the GBR Region

Source(s): Bureau of Meteorology, Commonwealth of Australia, eReefs Marine Water Quality Dashboard

Severe weather events

Severe weather events damage Reef health and, combined with floods, increase pollutant run-off. There has been a series of Severe Tropical Cyclones (Categories 3, 4 and 5) since 2000 that have severely impacted the GBR Region, particularly the marine habitats. From 1970 until 2006 (Cyclone Larry) there were no Category 5 cyclones recorded. However, there were five Category 5 cyclones between 2006 and 2015 (footnote 5) - these included cyclone Larry (2005-06 cyclone season), Hamish (2008-09), Yasi (2010-11), Ita (2013-14) and Marcia (2014-15), highlighting the increase in frequency and severity of storms in recent years.

Crown-of-thorns starfish

Crown-of-thorns-starfish (COTS) can cause declines in coral cover (footnote 4), particularly when COTS numbers increase over a relatively short period of time and the starfish consume coral tissues faster than the coral can recover. The figure below shows the proportion of COTS outbreaks per sampled reefs. In 2013, around 27% of the reefs sampled by AIMS had active outbreaks. There is evidence to suggest flood plumes and elevated nutrients exacerbate COTS outbreaks, by promoting plankton blooms (footnote 6). These blooms increase food supply for COTS larvae and other species (footnote 7). There is evidence that certain hydrodynamic circulation patterns on the GBR, caused by the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), may also influence the occurrence of primary outbreaks. Predator removal is also hypothesised to contribute to COTS outbreaks. For example, the giant triton snail, humphead Maori wrasse, sweetlip emperor and starry puffer fish feed on the COTS. While these predators do not solely feed on COTS, predation pressure is thought to be an important factor in controlling COTS populations (footnote 8).

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Crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks includes active and incipient outbreaks

Source(s): Long-Term Monitoring Program (LTMP), Australian Institute of of Marine Science (AIMS)

Footnotes

  1. Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Water Quality Guidelines for Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, 2010, GBRMPA, Townsville, pg 68. 
  2. Thompson, A., P. Costello, J. Davidson, M. Logan, K. Gunn, and B. Schaffelke. 2016. Marine Monitoring Program. Annual Report of AIMS Activities 2014 to 2015– Inshore Coral Reef Monitoring. Report for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. Townsville: Australian Institute of Marine Science.
  3. Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. 2017, Final report: 2016 coral bleaching event on the Great Barrier Reef, GBRMPA, Townsville.
  4. De'ath G, Fabricius KE, Sweatman H, Puotinen M. (2012). The 27-year decline of coral cover on the Great Barrier Reef and its causes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 190:17995-17999.
  5. Bureau of Meteorology, Commonwealth of Australia The Australian Tropical Cyclone Database
  6. Wooldridge SA, Brodie JE. (2015). Environmental triggers for primary outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Marine Pollution Bulletin. 101(2): 805-815.
  7. Fabricius KE, Okaji K, De'ath G. (2010) Three lines of evidence to link outbreaks of the crown-of-thorns seastar Acanthaster planci to the release of larval food limitation. Coral Reefs 29: 593-605.
  8. Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. Crown-of-thorns-starfish, What is the problem?

Terrestrial extent and condition

The Terrestrial Extent and Condition section presents information on the extent and condition of the terrestrial landscape of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) Catchment Area through the use of land accounts and river loads data.

Land account

As land use and land cover affect the provision of ecosystem services, measuring changes over time is critical in evaluating and monitoring trends in natural resource condition.

Land use reflects both the activities undertaken and the institutional arrangements put in place for a given area for the purposes of economic production, or the maintenance and restoration of environmental functions (SEEA Central Framework 2012). Land cover refers to the observed physical and biological cover of the Earth’s surface and includes natural vegetation and abiotic surface (SEEA Central Framework 2012).

In June 2017, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) published Land Account: Queensland, Experimental Estimates, 2011 - 2016 (cat. no. 4609.0.55.003), which featured an article Accounting for Land Changes in the Great Barrier Reef.

This section expands upon the data presented in the Land Account by incorporating a matrix of land use and land cover to look at combined changes of land use and land cover over time. Integrating spatial data about land cover extent and condition means that ecosystem characteristics can be linked to economic agents (or units), which can be aggregated to industries (land use). Land cover provides information on the generation of ecosystem services, while land use provides the use of these services (Keith et al, 2016).

The land use and land cover matrix in Table 1 shows that, between 2011 and 2016:

  • the land use category that increased the most was Livestock Grazing (a net increase of 166,726 ha). Livestock Grazing experienced increases from the land cover categories of Grasslands (474,817 ha) and Woody Shrubs (81,546 ha) and decreases from Rainfed Land (143,773 ha) and Trees (164,721 ha);
  • Extractive industries also experienced large net increases in land use area (69,583 ha), mainly from the land cover category of Grasslands (70,663 ha);
  • the Land Use category with the greatest decrease was Vacant Residential (a net decrease of 94,891 ha), with most of this decrease coming from the land cover of Trees (93,620 ha);
  • the Agricultural Cropping land use categories both experienced decreases. Land used for Sugar Cane decreased by 27,776 ha, mainly through decreases in Irrigated Land (11,868 ha), while 'All Other' Agricultural Cropping decreased by 83,874 ha, with decreases in Rainfed Land (37,767 ha) the major contributor;
  • land used for Residential purposes increased by 8,670 ha; most of this (86%) was converted from a land cover of Trees;
  • the land cover category that increased the most was Grasslands (a net increase of 611,335 ha); a large proportion of this was additions to the Livestock Grazing land use category (474,817 ha); and
  • the Wetlands land cover category, which includes flood plains and wetlands areas, recorded a decrease of 84,783 ha, however this was mainly due to the 2010-11 period experiencing floods; therefore, changes from this period of flooding to the relatively dry conditions of 2015 explain the decrease in the Wetlands land cover category over the two points in time. A similar story applies to the decrease in the land cover of Trees (379,053 ha), reflecting changes from a wet, green period in 2011 to the drier 2015 period. The scope of the land cover component of the Land Account only covers the period from 2010-11 to 2014-15.
     

Table 1. Land use and land cover matrix, net change (hectares), GBR catchment area, 2011-2016

 Dynamic Land Cover 2010-2011 and 2014-2015 change
Land Use (30 June 2011 and 30 June 2016 change)Urban Areas & Extraction Sites (a)WaterbodiesWetlands (d)Irrigated LandsRainfed LandsGrasslandsWoody ShrubsTreesNo DataTotal (Land use)
Residential
156
138
229
101
847
-302
17
7 467
25
8 679
Commercial
25
-5
-88
-9
335
372
7
-1 342
-111
-818
Industrial
38
47
52
281
59
838
106
646
32
2 100
Extractive industries
801
-164
-2
np
747
70 663
1 411
-3 809
np
69 583
Infrastructure, Utilities and Community Services
13
np
1
np
-70
-69
np
54
2
-68
Agricultural Cropping - Sugar Cane
-64
-30
159
-11 868
-5 176
np
np
-10 569
-16
-27 776
Agricultural Cropping - Other
np
-369
-2 058
-6 993
-37 767
-11 874
101
-24 772
np
-83 874
Livestock Grazing
-553
-2 454
-73 041
-5 546
-143 773
474 817
81 546
-164 721
449
166 726
Livestock – Special Purpose Structures
15
-118
-1 335
-229
-1 504
-155
6
-4 341
-
-7 659
Horticulture – Orchards
np
-137
-155
1 599
2 998
332
np
-319
11
4 327
Horticulture – Other
-1
-
22
761
-115
15
-
-507
-
176
Horticulture – Special Purpose Structural Improvements
np
np
-6
-41
-1 283
np
np
134
np
-1 917
Forestry – Commercial Timber Production
-30
np
-557
-896
-12 222
np
np
-23 448
np
-37 741
Vacant Residential
-234
329
-158
-524
-2 507
2 186
49
-93 620
-412
-94 891
Unallocated (b)
6
-593
-532
-1 221
-3 785
1 204
55
8 014
5
3 153
Not classified (c)
-
430
-7 314
-1 095
-9 129
74 657
10 375
-67 923
-
-
Total (Land cover)
-
-3 059
-84 783
-25 761
-212 346
611 336
93 665
-379 053
-
-
np - not available for publication but included in the totals where applicable, unless otherwise indicated
- nil or rounded to zero (including null cells).
Any discrepancies between totals and sums of components are due to rounding.
a. Urban Areas & Extraction Sites is a static land cover type. These classes show no changes over time.
b. This includes uses that could not be allocated to AVPCC.
c. No land use information available.
d. Wetlands includes flood plains and wetlands areas.
 

As mentioned above, in June 2017 the ABS published an updated Land Account for Queensland, which featured an article, Accounting for Land Changes in the Great Barrier Reef. Key findings from the article included:

  • the greatest total land use in the GBR Catchment Area was Livestock Grazing, which covered 67% of the total area in both 2011 and 2016; this type of land use also reported the largest increase in land area, from 32.2 million ha in 2011 to 32.4 million ha in 2016;
  • Residential land use was the largest contributor to unimproved land value within the GBR Catchment Area, accounting for 58% of total land value ($76.4 billion in 2016);
  • the largest decrease in land use area was attributable to Forestry – commercial timber production, at 38% or 37,741 ha. This land use decreased from 99,941 ha in 2011 to 62,200 ha in 2016, largely due to the reclassification of 33,546 ha to Livestock Grazing; note that this is a reclassification of primary land use and does not necessarily indicate a decline in forestry;
  • for land cover, the largest net change in broad land cover was for Grasslands, with an increase of 611,424 ha (from 11.5 million ha in 2010-11, to 12.1 million ha in 2014-15);
  • the land cover type which had the largest broad land cover was Trees, accounting for about two-thirds of the GBR Catchment Area in 2010-11 and 2014-15; and
  • Woody shrubs experienced the greatest percentage change of all broad land cover classes, with a 175% increase between 2010-11 and 2014-15 (53,469 ha to 147,133 ha).


The Land Account also features regional information for Natural Resource Management Regions (NRMRs) - data are available in the Land Accounts datacube in the Data downloads section (Table 5-8). In 2014-15 about half (47%) of the total Rainfed lands in the GBR Catchment Area were located in the Fitzroy NRMR, followed by the Burnett Mary NRMR and the Burdekin NRMR, accounting for 26% and 11% respectively. In the same year, the Mackay Whitsunday NRMR reported the greatest area of Irrigated and Rainfed Sugar (38%), followed by the Burdekin NRMR (30%) and the Wet Tropics NRMR (23%). The Fitzroy NRMR reported the greatest area of Extraction Sites with 65,381 ha (74%) of the total Extraction Sites in the GBR Catchment Area.

River loads

Suspended solids (or fine sediment), nitrogen, phosphorus and pesticides have all been shown to negatively affect the quality of marine environments and represent important indicators on the influence of land-based activities on the downstream marine environment. Suspended solids, nitrogen and phosphorus are all naturally occurring river loads that have increased over time with human development of the GBR Catchment Area, while pesticides are all of anthropogenic origin.

This section presents monitored load data for indicative river systems in the GBR Catchment Area over the period 2006-07 to 2014-15. The data in this section refer to load estimates at end-of-system sites in ten priority catchments (in the six GBR NRM regions) discharging into the GBR lagoon (see Methodology or more details). The selected catchments constitute around 80% (averaged over the reference period) of the total GBR Catchment Area. These catchments had previously been identified by the Reef Plan (2003) as high risk to the Reef in terms of contaminant exports and therefore they were recommended for priority monitoring. The ten catchments were also consistently monitored throughout the reference period and therefore suitable for a time series. Note that PSII inhibiting pesticides are the focus here, however recent monitoring of the GBR Catchment Area includes a broader range of pesticides.

The 2013 Scientific Consensus Statement highlights that "the main land uses contributing pollutant loads are rangeland grazing for sediment, rangeland grazing and sugar cane for total nitrogen and total phosphorus, and sugar cane for PSII inhibiting pesticides."

Please note that presented here are 'monitored' loads, as tracked by the Great Barrier Reef Catchment Loads Monitoring Program, rather than 'modelled' loads, as estimated by the Great Barrier Reef Catchment Loads Modelling Program, and reported in the annual Great Barrier Reef Report Cards. Monitored pollutant loads leaving catchments vary considerably from year-to-year, mainly due to differences in annual rainfall and runoff. Therefore, catchment modelling is used to estimate the long-term annual pollutant load reductions due to the adoption of improved land management practices. This removes the impact of factors such as climate variability. Research suggests time lags to monitor the improvements from land management practice change could range from years for pesticides, to up to decades for nutrients and sediments, due to the high level of climate variability.

Tables 2 and 3 below provide annual estimates for four types of annual loads: total suspended solids (TSS), total nitrogen (TN), particulate nitrogen (PN) and total phosphorus (TP). Table 4 provides estimates of PSII inhibiting pesticides.

This publication presents data for total nitrogen (TN) and total phosphorus (TP), however users should note that these pollutants occur in particulate, dissolved inorganic and dissolved organic forms. The 2013 Scientific Consensus Statement on land use impacts on water quality and ecosystem condition notes that: "Overall, increased nitrogen inputs are more important than phosphorus inputs. Dissolved inorganic forms of nitrogen and phosphorus are considered to be of greater concern than dissolved organic and particulate forms as they are immediately bioavailable for supporting algal growth. Particulate forms of nitrogen and phosphorus mostly become bioavailable, but over longer time frames. Most dissolved organic nitrogen typically has limited and delayed bioavailability." For more detail on these key breakdowns of forms of nitrogen and phosphorus, please refer to the Reef Report Card 2015.

The total amount of measured discharge for the monitored rivers in the GBR Catchment Area varied substantially between consecutive years in all NRM regions (Graph 1), highlighting the effects of rainfall over the period (see Graph 2). For mean annual rainfall for each NRM region see Table 4.1 in the Data downloads section.

Download

Source(s): Multiple sources, see Methodology.

Download

Table 2 below shows that the total amount of TSS and nutrient loads in the GBR Catchment Area all varied considerably between consecutive years in all NRM regions. A key reason for this volatility is the effect of rainfall and subsequent volume of river flow. For example, the 2010-11 flood events increased river loads across all NRM regions; however, loads returned to pre-flood levels by 2011-12 in most regions. The variability in loads between NRM regions is also driven by differences in catchment size and land use (Joo et al, 2012). Please note that these are monitored loads and do not account for the proportion of the load that is considered naturally occurring and not due to human development in the region.

More than half of the total TSS and nutrient loads from the monitored catchment areas were discharged from the large inland Burdekin and Fitzroy NRM regions (predominantly grazing country).

Table 2. River loads by pollutant type and discharge, by NRM region, GBR catchment area, 2006-06 to 2014-15

NRM RegionPollutant TypeUnit2006-072007-082008-092009-102010-112011-122012-132013-142014-15
BurdekinDischarge
GL
8 997
27 970
29 490
7 907
34 758
14 992
4 056
1 500
890
 TSS
Tonnes
6 503 000
12 700 000
9 614 000
1 937 798
6 200 000
3 300 000
2 500 000
220 000
700 000
 TN
Tonnes
9 724
32 816
23 283
6 411
21 000
11 000
5 500
860
1 000
 PN
Tonnes
na
na
na
3080
11 000
5 800
3 100
400
620
 TP
Tonnes
3 240
9 179
6 721
2 213
8 400
3 400
1 900
160
410
Burnett MaryDischarge
GL
35
87
30
967
8 886
629
7 358
360
730
 TSS
Tonnes
0
5 000
1 000
146 732
2 600 000
15 000
3 700 000
1 300
99 000
 TN
Tonnes
32
107
31
1 262
16 000
400
12 000
100
840
 PN
Tonnes
na
na
na
542
10 000
110
7 300
25
350
 TP
Tonnes
2
10
2
181
3 800
47
2 900
6
150
Cape YorkDischarge
GL
1 762
3 646
2 350
2 927
5 960
1 162
1 827
2 600
1 600
 TSS
Tonnes
59 000
211 000
104 000
173 214
207 000
46 000
142 000
140 000
29 000
 TN
Tonnes
711
1 814
1 098
1 326
5 600
490
na
1 200
690
 PN
Tonnes
na
na
na
65
480
140
na
400
280
 TP
Tonnes
84
168
98
159
320
87
na
170
80
FitzroyDischarge
GL
885
12 051
2 193
10 961
38 537
7 222
9 458
1 600
2 700
 TSS
Tonnes
320 000
4 751 000
404 000
3 563 583
7 000 000
1 300 000
2 500 000
52 000
900 000
 TN
Tonnes
1 178
15 197
2 016
12 989
36 000
6 400
9 300
1 000
3 200
 PN
Tonnes
na
na
na
4 291
17 000
3 000
4 300
230
1 600
 TP
Tonnes
403
5 671
657
5 321
15 000
2 700
3 700
160
1 300
Mackay WhitsundayDischarge
GL
866
1 340
911
1 326
3 371
1 217
1 248
580
130
 TSS
Tonnes
156 000
255 000
111 000
373 818
820 000
210 000
130 000
35 000
3 600
 TN
Tonnes
927
1 378
849
1 929
4 100
1 300
1 000
640
120
 PN
Tonnes
na
na
na
962
2 700
820
510
210
35
 TP
Tonnes
181
326
134
488
1 000
300
210
86
14
Wet TropicsDischarge
GL
12 189
10 895
17 182
8 336
24 734
11 411
8 157
11 320
4 900
 TSS
Tonnes
615 000
866 000
2 405 000
694 651
2 820 000
661 000
587 000
795 000
343 000
 TN
Tonnes
5 791
6 306
9 637
5 417
18 300
7 880
5 900
6 270
3 090
 PN
Tonnes
na
na
na
2 536
10 910
3 050
1 964
2 810
1 550
 TP
Tonnes
820
882
1 560
839
3 430
1 133
607
967
594
Total Monitored AreaDischarge
GL
24 734
55 989
52 156
32 424
116 246
36 633
32 104
17 960
10 950
 TSS
Tonnes
7 653 000
18 788 000
12 639 000
6 889 796
19 647 000
5 532 000
9 559 000
1 243 300
2 074 600
 TN
Tonnes
18 363
57 618
36 914
29 334
101 000
27 470
33 700
10 070
8 940
 PN
Tonnes
na
na
na
11 476
52 090
12 920
17 174
4 075
4 435
 TP
Tonnes
4 730
16 236
9 172
9 201
31 950
7 667
9 317
1 549
2 548
na not available
TSS - Total Suspended Solids
TN -Total Nitrogen
PN - Particulate Nitrogen
TP - Total Phosphorus
Source: Department of Science, Information Technology and Innovation, Queensland Government
 

Table 3 below presents yields of TSS, total nitrogen and total phosphorus. Annual yields (loads per unit area) are useful for comparing exports of catchments of different areas. The yields were computed by dividing the annual load by the monitored catchment area.

Although more than half of the TSS and nutrient loads from the monitored catchment areas were discharged from the large inland Burdekin and Fitzroy NRM regions (predominantly grazing country), the highest TSS and nutrient yields per unit area were produced in the wetter and proportionately more intensively cultivated Wet Tropics and Mackay Whitsunday NRM regions.

Note that the updated Scientific Consensus Statement (2017) for the Reef, which was not available at the time of publication, will include a comprehensive analysis of loads monitoring and modelling.

Table 3. River loads by pollutant type by kilometre squared (yield), by NRM region, GBR catchment area, 2006-07 to 2014-15

NRM regionPollutant TypeYield (a)2006-072007-082008-092009-102010-112011-122012-132013-142014-15
BurdekinTSS
(kg/km²)
50 042
97 730
73 982
14 913
47 715
25 397
19 240
1 693
5 388
 TN
(kg/km²)
75
253
179
49
162
85
42
7
8
 PN
(kg/km²)
na
na
na
24
85
45
24
3
5
 TP
(kg/km²)
25
71
52
17
65
26
15
1
3
Burnett MaryTSS
(kg/km²)
-
152
30
4 461
79 049
456
112 493
40
3 015
 TN
(kg/km²)
1
3
1
38
487
12
365
3
26
 PN
(kg/km²)
na
na
na
17
304
3
222
1
11
 TP
(kg/km²)
0
0
0
6
116
1
88
0
5
Cape YorkTSS
(kg/km²)
4 556
16 293
8 031
13 392
16 004
3 557
10 979
10 824
2 244
 TN
(kg/km²)
55
140
85
103
433
38
na
93
53
 PN
(kg/km²)
na
na
na
5
37
11
na
31
22
 TP
(kg/km²)
7
13
8
12
25
7
na
13
6
FitzroyTSS
(kg/km²)
2 297
34 106
2 900
25 608
50 302
9 342
17 965
374
6 461
 TN
(kg/km²)
9
109
15
93
259
46
67
7
23
 PN
(kg/km²)
na
na
na
31
122
22
31
2
12
 TP
(kg/km²)
3
41
5
38
108
19
27
1
9
Mackay WhitsundayTSS
(kg/km²)
107 586
175 862
76 552
251 729
552 189
141 414
87 542
23 569
2 456
 TN
(kg/km²)
639
950
586
1 299
2 761
875
673
431
82
 PN
(kg/km²)
na
na
na
648
1 818
552
343
141
24
 TP
(kg/km²)
125
225
92
329
673
202
141
58
10
Wet TropicsTSS
(kg/km²)
46 067
64 869
180 150
52 226
212 014
49 696
44 132
59 618
25 737
 TN
(kg/km²)
434
472
722
407
1 376
592
444
470
232
 PN
(kg/km²)
na
na
na
191
820
229
148
211
116
 TP
(kg/km²)
61
66
117
63
258
85
46
73
45
Total for Monitored AreaTSS
(kg/km²)
23 202
56 959
38 317
20 897
59 589
16 778
28 992
3 771
6 291
 TN
(kg/km²)
56
175
112
89
306
83
102
31
27
 PN
(kg/km²)
na
na
na
35
158
39
52
12
13
 TP
(kg/km²)
14
49
28
28
97
23
28
5
8
na not available
TSS - Total Suspended Solids
TN -Total Nitrogen
PN - Particulate Nitrogen
TP - Total Phosphorus
Source: Department of Science, Information Technology and Innovation, Queensland Government
 

Pesticide loads

The monitored annual loads of pesticides, represented by the suite of photosystem II inhibiting pesticides, including total diuron, ametryn, total atrazine, hexazinone and tebuthiuron, were calculated for the ten end-of-catchment sites across the six NRM regions. Note that the total pesticide load to the Great Barrier Reef lagoon is likely to be considerably larger, given that another 28 pesticides have been detected in the rivers, according to the 2013 Scientific Consensus Statement.

Table 4 below displays the amount of pesticide loads for the monitored catchments in the NRM regions in the GBR Catchment Area. In 2014-15 the Fitzroy NRM region produced the largest amounts tebuthiuron. This could be attributed to the fact that the Fitzroy NRM region accounts for the majority of meat cattle production in the GBR Catchment Area and tebuthiuron is commonly used in such production. The Fitzroy region also reported the highest levels of atrazine for the majority of the period. The NRM regions with the highest monitored levels of diuron throughout the reference period were the Mackay Whitsunday and Wet Tropics regions. The Wet Tropics region also recorded the highest monitored levels of hexazinone in every year of the reference period.

Note that pesticide loads provide an indication of the volumes of pesticides being transported from terrestrial sources, however, it is the concentrations of pesticides in an aquatic ecosystem that signify the magnitude of pesticide risk.

Table 4. Pesticides by type and discharge, by NRM region, GBR catchment area, 2010-11 to 2014-15

NRM RegionPollutant TypeUnit2010-112011-122012-132013-142014-15
BurdekinDischarge
GL
34 758
14 992
4 056
1 500
890
 Ametryn
kg
na
24
2
na
na
 Atrazine
kg
72
360
240
62
59
 Diuron
kg
na
28
29
22
7
 Hexazinone
kg
na
na
na
0
na
 Tebuthiuron
kg
810
230
30
8
9
Burnett MaryDischarge
GL
8 886
629
7 358
360
730
 Ametryn
kg
na
na
27
na
na
 Atrazine
kg
200
10
310
4
26
 Diuron
kg
62
12
130
0
9
 Hexazinone
kg
56
6
71
na
11
 Tebuthiuron
kg
130
2
87
na
na
FitzroyDischarge
GL
38 537
7 222
9 458
1 600
2 700
 Ametryn
kg
na
na
na
na
na
 Atrazine
kg
2 400
1 000
470
38
520
 Diuron
kg
130
66
98
32
29
 Hexazinone
kg
27
na
5
na
18
 Tebuthiuron
kg
6 000
890
5 000
140
390
Mackay WhitsundayDischarge
GL
3 371
1 217
1 248
580
130
 Ametryn
kg
74
9
28
6
2
 Atrazine
kg
530
220
460
230
140
 Diuron
kg
520
140
440
540
100
 Hexazinone
kg
130
27
93
43
22
 Tebuthiuron
kg
na
1
na
na
na
Wet TropicsDischarge
GL
24 734
11 411
8 157
11 320
4 900
 Ametryn
kg
17
10
18
na
na
 Atrazine
kg
238
211
310
344
148
 Diuron
kg
379
406
840
812
235
 Hexazinone
kg
162
148
211
142
106
 Tebuthiuron
kg
na
5
na
na
na
na not available
Source: Department of Science, Information Technology and Innovation, Queensland Government
 

Biodiversity

For the state of Queensland, all threatened fauna experienced a shift from having more species in the least threatened categories to having more species in the most threatened categories. For example, the number of Endangered species rose from 59 to 67 species while Near Threatened species decreased from 146 to 35 species.

For threatened species in the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) Region, there were four extinctions and ten new species described between 1994 and 2017. Birds and Reptiles had little overall movement between threat categories; Mammals saw four extra species added to the Vulnerable category, Fish saw two species added to the Endangered category, and Invertebrates saw three species added to the Endangered category. Frogs fared worst of all with ten species added to the Endangered category, one species to the Vulnerable category and five species to the Near Threatened category. The primary threat to each faunal group was habitat loss and degradation; other key threats across all groups were feral species and climate change.

Biodiversity is the variety of plant and animal life in a particular habitat, the different plants, animals and micro-organisms, the genetic information they contain and the ecosystems they form. Threatened species accounts can be used as an indicator of biodiversity in the broader ecosystem accounting context.

The Great Barrier Reef Biodiversity Strategy 2013 and Great Barrier Reef Vulnerability Assessment 2007 both looked specifically at the vulnerability and status of key species and species groups in the GBR Marine Park.

For the following summaries and species accounts of threatened species in the GBR Region, the differing threat categories used in state, national and international listings were broadly concorded to form a new set of categories for the purpose of comparison between the three geographical scales of the contributing datasets. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species (hereafter the ‘Red List’) is used for international listings of threatened fauna, the Commonwealth Environmental Protection Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (hereafter the ‘EPBC’) for national listings, and the Queensland Nature Conservation Act 1992 (hereafter the ‘NCA’) for state listings.

Table 1 presents a broad alignment of the categories from the three lists, from the most severe listing (grouped together as the revised category of ‘Extinct’) to species either being considered as of 'least concern' or not listed at all (grouped together as ‘Not listed’). Species in scope are those deemed threatened according to the NCA, with a distribution range within the GBR Region. Therefore species deemed threatened by either the EPBC or the Red List, but not by the NCA, were not considered.

Table 1. Concorded categories for threatened fauna

NCAEPBCRed ListRevised category
Extinct in the WildExtinct Extinct in the WildExtinct Extinct in the Wild Regionally ExtinctExtinct
EndangeredCritically Endangered EndangeredCritically Endangered EndangeredEndangered
VulnerableVulnerableVulnerableVulnerable
Near ThreatenedConservation DependentLower Risk Near ThreatenedNear Threatened
Least Concern (unlisted)(unlisted)Data deficient Least Concern (unlisted)Not listed
 

Graph 1 provides a snapshot comparison between state, national and international listings of species considered threatened for frogs, reptiles, birds, mammals and invertebrates, illustrating the reporting discrepancies between each of the lists.

Download

Graph 2 depicts changes for all Queensland faunal listings, from 2007 to 2015, and shows a shift from more species in the least threatened categories to more species in the most threatened categories. The number of species in the Near Threatened category decreased from 146 in 2007 to 35 to 2015, while the number of species in the Vulnerable category increased from 79 to 129 over the same period, and the number of species in the Endangered category increased from 59 to 67.

Download

Source(s): State of the Environment, Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, Queensland Government.

Threatened species accounts

Species accounts are often used as an indicator of biodiversity in ecosystem accounting. For this publication, threatened bird, reptile, mammal, fish and invertebrate species accounts have been prepared for the GBR Region. Species have not been separated into terrestrial and marine groups due to the difficulties separating species that inhabit both zones, such as species found in estuaries, or species that use different ecosystems depending on their life cycle stage.

Species accounts enable understanding of movement between threat categories between two points in time (for example the number of species moving from a category of Endangered to Vulnerable). The threatened species accounts contained in this release present these changes according to additions and reductions for each threat category (Extinct, Endangered, Vulnerable, Near Threatened, Not Threatened and Not Listed) between 1994 and 2017.

These accounts have been created for each key faunal group (for which data exists) in the GBR Region; they are based on the list of threatened species in the NCA, but fauna unsuitable for inclusion have been omitted. For example, the Percy Island Flying Fox has been omitted due to unclear taxonomic status and an uncertain identification of the specimen used to describe the species. Please refer to the Methodology for more details on omitted species. However, when a species falls into the category of Not Listed, this indicates that it appears on the NCA threatened species list but not on the Red List; for example, the Kroombit Tree Frog is listed as Endangered by the NCA, but is not currently on the Red List.

For some threatened fauna there may be a lag in the detection of significant population declines. Sometimes there is a delay between when a species has been subject to significant threatening processes and when the subsequent extinction of that species resulting from the impact of this occurs; this is termed extinction debt. Species most vulnerable to extinction debt are usually long-lived species or species with specific habitat requirements. For example, individual animals may live for a long time without reproducing successfully, perhaps due to unsuitable breeding habitat, and the population would appear to be healthy; however, when those individuals die, the population suddenly experiences an irreversible downturn. Therefore, extinction debt should be taken into consideration when viewing threatened species accounts, as such accounts may take time to accurately reflect the true status of threatened species.

Birds

Table 2. Threatened bird species account for the GBR region, 1994-2017

 ExtinctEndangeredVulnerableNear ThreatenedNot ThreatenedNot ListedTotal Species
Opening Stock Additions
1
6
6
6
5
4
28
From lower threat categories
0
3
0
1
0
0
4
From higher threat categories
0
0
0
3
6
0
9
Discoveries of new species
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
Rediscoveries of extinct species
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
Reclassifications
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
Updated assessments
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
New additions to list
0
1
1
1
1
0
4
Total additions
0
4
1
5
7
0
17
Reductions
To lower threat categories
0
3
2
4
0
0
9
To higher threat categories
0
0
2
1
1
3
7
Reclassifications
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
Local extinction
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
Updated assessments
0
0
0
0
0
1
1
Total reductions
0
3
4
5
1
4
17
Closing Stock
1
7
3
6
11
0
28
Source: Nature Conservation Act (1992), Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, Queensland; The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
 

There were no significant movements between threat categories between 1994 and 2017 for threatened birds of the GBR Region. The only species of bird classified as extinct in this region is the Paradise Parrot, which was classified as extinct prior to the 1994 opening period, with the last confirmed sighting in 1927. Over the accounting period, three species were downgraded from the Endangered category, and four species were downgraded from the Vulnerable category.

The main threats to the birds of the GBR Region are habitat loss and degradation, climate change, invasive species and coastal development. Some of the bird species included here are very mobile and sometimes have international ranges such as the oceanic and long-distance migratory species; therefore threats geographically external to the GBR Region also impact on this group of birds. For example, species like the Eastern Curlew have shifted to a greater level of threat between 1994 and 2017, partly because they are subject to threatening processes on their migration route and at their breeding grounds in the northern hemisphere. Others like the endemic Regent Honeyeater have experienced an increased level of threat since 1994 due to local threatening processes. Some species have remained in the same threat category since 1994, like the Wandering Albatross, which is threatened by longline fishing practices.

Mammals

Table 3. Threatened mammals species account for the GBR region, 1994-2017

 ExtinctEndangeredVulnerableNear ThreatenedNot ThreatenedNot ListedTotal Species
Opening Stock Additions
0
5
4
2
0
17
28
From lower threat categories
0
0
2
0
0
0
2
From higher threat categories
0
0
1
0
1
0
2
Discoveries of new species
0
0
0
1
0
1
2
Rediscoveries of extinct species
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
Reclassifications
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
Updated assessments
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
New additions to list
1
0
2
3
8
0
14
Total additions
1
0
5
4
9
1
20
Reductions
To lower threat categories
0
1
1
0
0
0
2
To higher threat categories
0
0
0
2
0
6
8
Reclassifications
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
Local extinction
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
Updated assessments
0
0
0
0
0
8
8
Total reductions
0
1
1
2
0
14
18
Closing Stock
1
4
8
4
9
4
30
Source: Nature Conservation Act (1992), Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, Queensland; The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
 

Between 1994 and 2017, one species (the Bramble Cay Melomys) was declared extinct in 2016 and is a suspected casualty of climate change. While one species was downgraded from Endangered to Vulnerable, an additional five species moved into the Vulnerable category, bringing the closing stock for 2017 to eight species. Two new mammal species were described since 1994 - the Australian Snubfin Dolphin (in 2005) and the Silver-headed Antechinus (in 2013).

General threats to the mammals of the GBR Region include habitat clearing and degradation, climate change and the impact of feral species. More specifically, these threats can include the destruction of mammal habitat such as forest, mangrove, and wetland habitats due to reclamation projects, marine aquaculture, tourist facilities and agricultural and urban development; mining; timber harvesting and forest management; inappropriate fire regimes; the creation of habitat fragments; and the degradation of habitat by livestock grazing. Climate change threats include increased drought frequency and severity, and increased storm occurrence and severity. Feral species pose threats such as the degradation of habitat, direct predation, and competition by animals such as feral cats, dogs, foxes, pigs, goats, and also weed invasion of habitat. Additionally, the disturbance of roosting sites (for bats), fatalities from roads and barbed wire fences, and shark nets (for dolphins) are threats.

The worldwide hunting of whales has largely halted. For example, the Humpback Whale was close to extinction and was listed as Endangered as late as 1988. This species has since rebounded and was listed as of 'least concern' in 2008.

Fish

Table 4. Threatened fish species account for the GBR region, 1994-2017

 ExtinctEndangeredVulnerableNear ThreatenedNot ThreatenedNot ListedTotal Species
Opening Stock Additions
0
0
2
0
0
2
4
From lower threat categories
0
2
0
0
0
0
2
From higher threat categories
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
Discoveries of new species
0
0
0
0
1
0
1
Rediscoveries of extinct species
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
Reclassifications
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
Updated assessments
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
New additions to list
0
0
2
0
0
0
2
Total additions
0
2
2
0
1
0
5
Reductions
To lower threat categories
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
To higher threat categories
0
0
2
0
0
2
4
Reclassifications
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
Local extinction
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
Updated assessments
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
Total reductions
0
0
2
0
0
2
4
Closing Stock
0
2
2
0
1
0
5
Source: Nature Conservation Act (1992), Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, Queensland; The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
 

From 1994 to 2017 two species were added to the Endangered category; otherwise, little movement occurred between categories, with two species remaining in the Vulnerable category. Note that there are only low numbers of fish species listed.

The main pressures on the threatened fish populations in the GBR Region are the loss and degradation of habitat. More specifically, this entails the development and modification of marine and freshwater habitats for residential, forestry and agricultural purposes. Other threats include fishing bycatch from both recreational and commercial fishing, aquarium collecting and competition from exotic species of fish.

Reptiles

Table 5. Threatened reptile species account, GBR region, 1994-2017

 ExtinctEndangeredVulnerableNear ThreatenedNot ThreatenedNot ListedTotal Species
Opening Stock Additions
0
5
7
0
0
34
46
From lower threat categories
0
1
0
0
1
0
2
From higher threat categories
0
0
2
0
0
0
2
Discoveries of new species
0
1
0
0
0
0
1
Rediscoveries of extinct species
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
Reclassifications
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
Updated assessments
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
New additions to list
0
0
0
1
4
0
5
Total additions
0
2
2
1
5
0
10
Reductions
To lower threat categories
0
2
0
0
0
0
2
To higher threat categories
0
0
1
0
0
1
2
Reclassifications
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
Local extinction
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
Updated assessments
0
0
1
0
0
4
5
Total reductions
0
2
2
0
0
5
9
Closing Stock
0
5
7
1
5
29
47
Source: Nature Conservation Act (1992), Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, Queensland; The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
 

The threatened status of reptiles in the GBR Region has remained fairly stable compared to other faunal groups between 1994 and 2017, with the addition of only one species to the Near Threatened category. No extinctions were reported during this period, however a newly-described species (the Gulbaru Gecko) was added to the Endangered category.

The main threats specific to the GBR Region reptile population are habitat loss and degradation. Specifically this includes land clearing for agriculture and coastal development, and feral predators such as cats, foxes and cane toads. Inappropriate fire regimes, grazing and possibly climate change are also considerations. For marine turtles outside the GBR Region, fisheries bycatch and the collection of eggs and adults are a threatening process; this highlights the international importance of the GBR Region as a protected refuge for species that have an international range (for example, marine turtles).

Frogs

Table 6. Threatened frog species account for the GBR region, 1944-2017

 ExtinctEndangeredVulnerableNear ThreatenedNot ThreatenedNot ListedTotal Species
Opening Stock Additions
0
8
4
0
3
16
31
From lower threat categories
3
3
0
0
0
0
6
From higher threat categories
0
0
0
2
0
0
2
Discoveries of new species
0
3
2
0
1
0
6
Rediscoveries of extinct species
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
Reclassifications
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
Updated assessments
0
2
0
1
0
0
3
New additions to list
0
6
3
2
3
0
14
Total additions
3
14
5
5
4
0
31
Reductions
To lower threat categories
0
1
1
0
0
0
2
To higher threat categories
0
3
3
0
3
11
20
Reclassifications
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
Local extinction
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
Updated assessments
0
0
0
0
0
3
3
Total reductions
0
4
4
0
3
14
25
Closing Stock
3
18
5
5
4
2
37
Source: Nature Conservation Act (1992), Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, Queensland; The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
 

Between 1994 and 2017, six new species of frog were described; these were the Magnificent Brooding-frog in 1994, the Mountain Nurseryfrog in 1994, the Melville Range Tree Frog in 1997, the Cape Melville Boulder-frog in 1998, the Tapping Nurseryfrog described in 2004, and the Kuranda Tree Frog in 2007. In this same time period three frog extinctions were also recorded - the Northern Gastric Brooding Frog (2002), Southern Gastric Brooding Frog (2002), and the Southern Day-frog (2004). In addition, since 1994 ten species were added to the Endangered category, one to the Vulnerable category and five to the Near Threatened category. Only two frog species were downgraded in threat status during this period.

The main overarching threats to this faunal group are the spread of the chytrid fungus (chytridiomycosis) and the loss and degradation of habitat. More specifically, threatened frogs are vulnerable to introduced animal species as predators and as degraders of frog habitat; introduced plants which choke out suitable habitat; water pollution and altered hydrology; increased nutrient loads and sedimentation; and inappropriate fire regimes. The introduction of the devastating chytrid fungus is a worldwide problem for amphibians which may be exacerbated by climate change.

Invertebrates

Table 7. Threatened invertebrate species account for the GBR region, 1994-2017

 ExtinctEndangeredVulnerableNear ThreatenedNot ThreatenedNot ListedTotal Species
Opening Stock Additions
0
0
0
2
0
5
7
From lower threat categories
0
2
0
0
0
0
2
From higher threat categories
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
Discoveries of new species
0
0
0
0
0
1
1
Rediscoveries of extinct species
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
Reclassifications
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
Updated assessments
0
1
0
0
0
0
1
New additions to list
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
Total additions
0
3
0
0
0
1
4
Reductions
To lower threat categories
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
To higher threat categories
0
0
0
2
0
1
3
Reclassifications
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
Local extinction
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
Updated assessments
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
Total reductions
0
0
0
2
0
1
3
Closing Stock
0
3
0
0
0
5
8
Source: Nature Conservation Act (1992), Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, Queensland; The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
 

Invertebrates are by far the most numerous faunal group, with approximately 300,000 species of land invertebrates alone estimated in Australia, and only 15% of these thought to be formally described (Australian Museum, 2009). This faunal group currently has very few species listed as threatened. Table 7 reflects the paucity of knowledge around this faunal group, rather than it being an informed assessment in having genuinely low numbers of threatened species.

One new species, the Dulacca Woodland Snail, was described in 2010. Between 1994 and 2017, the Illidge’s Ant-blue and a species of crayfish were elevated to higher threat categories, and another species of crayfish had become Endangered. In terms of threats, the crayfish are vulnerable to localised impacts such as fire, habitat loss and over collection, the potential effects of climate change, and feral species, particularly cane toads. The Illidge’s Ant-blue is primarily threatened by the destruction of their mangrove habitat.

Employment and business profile of the GBR region

The Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan divides economic activity in the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) Region into “reef-dependent” and “reef-associated” activities. Reef-dependent activities include activities such as fishing and tourism, which are covered in detail elsewhere in this publication. Reef-associated industries are other economic activities which due to their proximity and nature, can impact on the Reef, but do not directly depend on the Reef.

Some industries can impact the Reef due to their potential to degrade conditions in the Marine Park, either directly via runoff of pollution into the reef, or indirectly through their influence on the health and filtration capacity of terrestrial ecosystems. Among the activities of potential concern are agriculture, mining, manufacturing, construction, ports and shipping, and wastewater management. This publication does not identify a specific, prescriptive list of reef-associated industries.

Most economic activities in the GBR Region are not directly “reef-dependent”. Other sections of this publication focus on specific industries that rely on terrestrial or marine ecosystem services. This section focuses on available small-area information to profile the economy of the region as a whole, with a focus on jobs and employee income. For all topics covered in this section, data cubes are available with more comprehensive tables, in the Data downloads section of the publication.

Industries in the GBR region

Major employing industries in the GBR Region include Health care and social assistance, Construction, Retail trade, and Mining.

Data on employment by industry is sourced from the experimental Employee Earnings and Jobs dataset discussed in the Information Paper: Construction of Experimental Statistics on Employee Earnings and Jobs from Administrative Data, Australia, 2011-12 (cat. no. 6311.0), published by the ABS in 2015. This dataset was used to produce estimates covering numbers of jobs, earnings totals and multiple job holders. The October 2017 release of data from the 2016 Census will contain a range of employment statistics, including industry and occupation dimensions. This section also includes counts of businesses estimated according to the methodology used in Counts of Australian Businesses, including Entries and Exits (cat. no. 8165.0).

While a time series is not currently available for the Employee Earnings and Jobs dataset, this section also refers to Estimates of Personal Income for Small Areas, which includes occupation (but not industry of employment), for some insight into the shape of employment in the region over recent years. Please refer to the Methodology for a more detailed description of the distinct concepts of industry and occupation.

Table 1. Number of jobs and total gross payments to employees, total and in jobs held concurrently, GBR region, 2011-12

 Total number of jobsTotal gross payments to employeeNumber of jobs held concurrently with another jobTotal gross payments to employees in jobs held concurrently with another job
Industry'000s$m'000s'000s
Agriculture, forestry and fishing
28.9
540.0
14.3
205.0
Mining
29.9
2 341.5
12.7
683.1
Manufacturing
52.0
2 523.8
14.5
405.3
Electricity, gas, water and waste services
10.8
722.7
1.8
58.7
Construction
63.4
2 894.4
22.8
625.0
Wholesale trade
28.2
1 036.8
8.7
161.1
Retail trade
68.4
1 495.8
24.5
275.9
Accommodation and food services
54.0
816.0
25.2
225.6
Transport, postal and warehousing
36.8
1 654.3
11.3
243.8
Information media and telecommunications
5.3
166.5
1.8
25.5
Financial and Insurance Services
18.2
496.1
8.2
107.5
Rental, hiring and real estate services
15.5
453.0
6.3
105.4
Professional, scientific and technical services
36.3
1 555.5
14.2
360.3
Administrative and support services
49.1
1 099.0
25.5
378.8
Public administration and safety
46.7
2 077.4
13.4
244.9
Education and training
57.0
1 981.3
22.9
516.4
Health care and social assistance
69.2
2 565.7
22.7
516.4
Arts and recreation services
7.8
129.6
4.1
33.2
Other services
26.0
785.7
9.6
172.0
Unknown
3.1
77.9
1.5
21.1
Total
706.6
25 413.1
266.0
5 365.0

Table 1 shows that the largest employing industries in the GBR Region in 2011-12 were Health care and social assistance with 69,200 jobs, followed by Retail trade (68,400), then Construction (63,400).

In terms of payments to employees, Construction was the largest-paying industry, paying $2.9b. Healthcare and social assistance paid employees $2.6b and Manufacturing paid $2.5b. The highest-paying job in the region, calculated as a median, was in the Mining industry ($71,635) followed by Electricity, gas, water and waste services ($64,893) then Public administration and safety ($47,835).

The industries with the highest proportion of jobs held concurrently with other jobs were Arts and recreation services (52%), Administrative and support services (52%) and Agriculture, forestry and fisheries (50%). These industries are often associated with part time, short term or seasonal labour, and in the case of Administrative and support services, likely reflects the employment of Census workers in the 2011-12 financial year. Agriculture, forestry, and fisheries in the GBR Region had a lower share of jobs held concurrently with other jobs (50%) than Australia as a whole (55%).

Table 2 shows that compared to Queensland or Australia as a whole, the Mining, Construction and Agriculture industries were more heavily represented, with Mining contributing 9.2% of employment income in the GBR Region compared to 3.6% for total Australia.

Accommodation and food services, and Transport, postal, and warehousing were somewhat more concentrated in the region than at a national level (3.2% compared with 2.9% and 6.5% compared with 4.8%, respectively). This appears consistent with the region's status as a major tourism destination. According to the Australian National Accounts: Tourism Satellite Account (cat. no. 5249.0), on a national level these industries are the two most strongly associated with tourism activity, with 42% and 13% of total industry activity associated with tourism, respectively. For example, tourist transportation activity would be expected to be strongly concentrated in areas such as the Reef catchment. "Scenic and Sightseeing Transport" and "Water Passenger Transport" are two fine-level industry classifications (ANZSIC classes) which would cover the operation of water craft for tourists in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park for purposes such as sightseeing, transport to islands or between towns, and fishing charters.

Table 2. Industry share of total gross payments to employees, GBR region, Queensland and Australia, 2011-12

 Industry share of gross payments to employees in GBR RegionIndustry share of gross payments to employees in QueenslandDifference in industry income concentration, GBR Region compared with QueenslandIndustry share of gross payments to employees in AustraliaDifference in industry income concentration, GBR Region compared with Australia
Industry
%
%
%
%
%
Agriculture, forestry and fishing
2.1
1.1
1.0
1.0
1.2
Mining
9.2
4.3
4.9
3.6
5.6
Manufacturing
9.9
9.5
0.4
9.6
0.3
Electricity, gas, water and waste services
2.8
2.0
0.8
1.7
1.1
Construction
11.4
9.6
1.8
7.9
3.5
Wholesale trade
4.1
4.9
-0.9
5.8
-1.7
Retail trade
5.9
6.1
-0.2
5.9
-0.1
Accommodation and food services
3.2
3.0
0.2
2.9
0.3
Transport, postal and warehousing
6.5
5.9
0.6
4.8
1.7
Information media and telecommunications
0.7
1.2
-0.5
2.1
-1.4
Financial and Insurance Services
2.0
3.9
-2.0
6.3
-4.4
Rental, hiring and real estate services
1.8
1.9
-0.1
1.7
0.0
Professional, scientific and technical services
6.1
9.1
-3.0
9.9
-3.8
Administrative and support services
4.3
5.1
-0.8
5.7
-1.3
Public administration and safety
8.2
8.6
-0.4
8.8
-0.6
Education and training
7.8
8.1
-0.3
8.4
-0.6
Health care and social assistance
10.1
11.7
-1.6
10.2
-0.1
Arts and recreation services
0.5
0.8
-0.3
0.9
-0.4
Other services
3.1
2.7
0.4
2.4
0.6
Unknown
0.3
0.3
0.0
0.3
0.0

Business counts from taxation data show that there were fewer businesses operating in the GBR Region in June 2016 than there were in June 2012, however, it is not possible to infer a decline in economic activity from this reduction in business counts. The counts of Mining businesses should be treated with particular caution due to the difficulty of classifying large multi-national corporations to particular regional areas. The Mining industry has a high prevalence of both international ties and complex business structures that makes classifying the activity of these businesses at the regional level problematic. For example, there were around 250 Mining businesses based in Brisbane City in 2016 and over 350 in Sydney - Haymarket - The Rocks, and these are likely to relate to Mining operations in other parts of Australia.

Table 3. Counts of businesses in GBR region, 2012-2016

Industry20122013201420152016
Agriculture, forestry and fishing
19 953
19 459
19 760
19 263
19 126
Mining
737
716
659
614
591
Manufacturing
3 571
3 402
3 292
3 209
3 183
Electricity, gas, water and waste services
262
250
257
267
267
Construction
17 775
16 976
16 615
16 124
15 804
Wholesale trade
2 101
1 979
1 948
1 876
1 842
Retail trade
6 195
5 839
5 720
5 532
5 346
Accommodation and food services
4 000
3 927
4 029
4 034
4 027
Transport, postal and warehousing
6 055
5 870
5 865
5 710
5 512
Information media and telecommunications
381
360
373
365
370
Financial and Insurance Services
4 566
4 623
4 812
5 041
5 293
Rental, hiring and real estate services
9 674
9 616
9 726
9 612
9 519
Professional, scientific and technical services
6 713
6 488
6 405
6 307
6 209
Administrative and support services
3 364
3 142
3 109
3 120
3 103
Public administration and safety
279
278
276
229
235
Education and training
1 117
1 071
1 068
1 067
1 063
Health care and social assistance
3 753
3 825
4 000
4 169
4 368
Arts and recreation services
890
849
838
820
829
Other services
5 402
5 243
5 270
5 190
5 224
Unknown
1 323
1 433
1 059
892
963
Total
98 111
95 346
95 081
93 441
92 874
Note: Counts of businesses are attributed to a single location only. Some large and complex businesses which operate in the GBR Region are attributed to another location and excluded from these counts, Please refer to Explanatory Notes for more detail.
 

Business counts declined in most industries, with Health care and social assistance and Financial and insurance services the only industries to exhibit more than 2% growth in business counts.

Using confidentialised personal income tax estimates as an indicator of industry activity suggests that between 2010-11 and 2014-15, Graphs 1 and 2 suggest that growth in resource activities, such as the Mining and Construction industries, may have exceeded those in commercial and services in the GBR Region. Between 2010-11 and 2014-15, the number of Clerical and Administrative Workers and Sales Workers declined in the GBR Region, at comparable but slightly higher rates than the decline in Queensland overall. Incomes for Sales Workers also grew more slowly than for the entire state of Queensland. On the other hand, numbers of Labourers and Technicians and Trades Workers grew strongly, and median incomes for Machinery Operators and Drivers experienced the fastest growth.

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Finer “Sub-Major” level occupation data allows the identification of more industry-specific occupation groups. Among the 43 sub-major occupation groups, Table 4 shows that several among the top ten for median income growth were in groups associated with Mining and Construction sector activity. Construction and Mining Labourers in the GBR Region experienced median income increases from $59,283 to $77,871 between 2010-11 and 2014-15. This 30% increase was the largest of any Sub-Major occupation group across the five-year period. Construction Trades Workers (25%), and Electro-technology and Telecommunications Trades Workers (23%) also experienced strong growth in median incomes over the period.

Table 4. Growth in median employment incomes, selected sub-major occupation groups, GBR region, 2010-11 to 2014-15

 2010-112011-122012-132013-142014-155 year median income percentage increase
Sub-Major Occupation Group (ANZSCO)$$$$$%
Construction and Mining Labourers
59 284
66 635
73 127
73 250
76 872
29.7
Sales Support Workers
20 436
21 919
23 979
25 551
26 290
28.6
Other Technicians and Trades Workers
46 254
50 509
54 784
57 322
58 591
26.7
Electrotechnology and Telecommunications Trades Workers
79 146
85 607
89 652
92 860
98 503
24.5
Factory Process Workers
40 448
43 679
45 299
47 743
50 000
23.6
Storepersons
42 547
46 181
49 098
50 510
52 543
23.5
Construction Trades Workers
49 794
55 318
59 227
59 152
61 266
23
Other Clerical and Administrative Workers
45 257
48 743
51 379
52 395
55 367
22.3
Automotive and Engineering Trades Workers
75 763
83 182
86 495
87 892
91 162
20.3
Cleaners and Laundry Workers
26 565
28 440
30 200
30 815
31 879
20
All employee income earners
48 291
51 984
54 627
55 458
56 463
16.9

Table 5 shows that the number of employees earning income in the highest median income growth occupation groups did not generally expand alongside incomes in these occupation groups. The number of Construction and Mining Labourers, Factory Process Workers and Construction Trades Workers all declined as median incomes rose. The largest growth in numbers of employees instead occurred in Chief Executives, General Managers and Legislators (23.5%) and Health and Welfare Support Workers (23.4%) with other health and social services, and commercial sector occupation fields, also growing in number.

Table 5. Growth in number of employees, selected sub-major occupation groups, GBR region, 2010-11 to 2014-15

 2010-112011-122012-132013-142014-155 year employee number percentage increase
Sub-major Occupation Group'000 psns'000 psns'000 psns'000 psns'000 psns%
Health and Welfare Support Workers
6.4
6.9
7.2
7.5
7.9
24.2
Chief Executives, General Managers and Legislators
11.5
12.5
13.1
13.6
14.2
22.8
Health Professionals
18.9
20.3
21.2
21.8
21.8
15.3
Farmers and Farm Managers
1.8
1.9
2.0
2.0
2.0
14.7
Hospitality Workers
11.6
11.9
12.2
12.5
13.2
13.6
ICT Professionals
1.4
1.6
1.6
1.6
1.6
13.1
Other Labourers
13.3
14.5
15.0
14.9
15.0
12.8
Legal, Social and Welfare Professionals
4.3
4.5
4.7
4.7
4.8
11.8
Sports and Personal Service Workers
4.5
4.6
4.8
4.8
5.0
11.2
Hospitality, Retail and Service Managers
12.0
12.6
13.0
13.1
13.3
11.1
All employee income earners
513.0
540.1
554.9
556.9
572.8
11.7

Recent trends in regional employment

Overall, from 2010-11 to 2014-15, the total number of employees and the total sum earned increased at a faster rate in the GBR Region than for the state of Queensland at the start of the period, before slowing in 2014-15. Total income earned follows a similar trajectory.

Growth in earners and in income was fastest in the far northern Cape York NRM region, followed by Fitzroy and the Wet Tropics regions. Cape York and Fitzroy were the only two regions where growth in employee income exceeded that of total Queensland across the period.

Mining in focus

Mining is not covered elsewhere in this publication as it is generally not an industry that relies on ecosystem inputs, but rather on abiotic mineral and energy resources. However, the Mining industry is reliant on ports and shipping for transport of its products, and these activities along the Reef coast benefit from substantial shore-line protection from the Reef itself. Mining is also identified in the Reef Plan 2050 as requiring management to mitigate risks to the Reef. A data gap exists in terms of systematic information on potential impacts by mining on the Reef either directly through water releases and other runoff, or indirectly through ports development and management. This will be explored in future releases.

A majority of Queensland Mining employment (55%) was located in the GBR Region in 2011-12, the only industry for which this is the case. It is a significant industry in the region’s economy, more so than in many other parts of the State. The observed concentration of this industry exists even with the exclusion of fly-in-fly-out employees who may be working within the region but living outside, an exclusion which is inherent to the taxation datasets due to the residence reported on individual tax returns.

Table 6. Proportion of Queensland employment income earned, by industry, GBR region, 2011-12

Industry%
Agriculture, forestry and fishing
48.1
Mining
55.3
Manufacturing
27.0
Electricity, gas, water and waste services
36.1
Construction
30.6
Wholesale trade
21.3
Retail trade
24.8
Accommodation and food services
27.4
Transport, postal and warehousing
28.4
Information media and telecommunications
14.6
Financial and Insurance Services
12.9
Rental, hiring and real estate services
24.1
Professional, scientific and technical services
17.3
Administrative and support services
21.9
Public administration and safety
24.6
Education and training
24.7
Health care and social assistance
22.2
Arts and recreation services
17.1
Other services
29.8
Unknown
24.8
All industries
25.8

The GBR Region represents around one quarter of the Queensland economy, containing 26% of the jobs and 26% of the gross payments to employees in Queensland. By contrast, 57% of Queensland’s Mining jobs and 55% of employee income were derived from the GBR Region in 2011-12. Queensland’s Agriculture, forestry and fisheries industry is also quite concentrated in the region, with 45% of the jobs and 48% of the employee income. Other industries with a notable concentration include Electricity, gas, water and waste (36% of employment income and job numbers), and Other services (30% of employment income and 28% of jobs). Several commercial and services industries are under represented in the GBR Region compared to Queensland, including Arts and recreation services and Professional, scientific and technical services.

A time series does not currently exist for the Employee Earnings and Jobs dataset - instead, reference can be made to small area Personal Income Tax data, which includes an occupation code, for further insight into the shape of the Mining industry's employment profile across recent years.

Some finer-level occupation codes within the ANZSCO classification are assumed to map closely with Mining industry employment. Graph 3 indicates that the period 2011-12 to 2012-13 represented a peak period for employment of Mining-related workers in the GBR Region, followed by a flattening or decline in employee numbers in these occupation groups.

Note that earnings from these Personal Income Tax data main occupations collectively equate to about 67% of all employee income earned in the GBR Region in the Mining industry in 2011-12. This means that while predominant, the coverage of the Mining Industry by reported occupations is not complete. The remaining third of Mining industry income will include; employees in other occupations working for employers within the Mining industry; secondary or non-main jobs held within the Mining industry; and misreported and inadequately reported occupation information.

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All four groups show a roughly similar pattern of peak and then decline across the reference period but the timing of the peaks differed, suggesting structural shifts in Mining employment at different stages of the apparent regional Mining employment boom. Specifically, the four groups appear to peak successively across a three year period, beginning with Labourers, followed by Machinery Operators and Drivers and Professionals, then ending with Managers.

Roughly three quarters of the employees classified in the strongly Mining-related occupations Graph 3 are Drillers, Miners and Shot Firers within the Machinery Operators and Drivers major group. By 2014-15, the number of these employees in the GBR had dropped back to nearly 2010-11 levels, after rising 11% to a peak in 2012-13. Numbers of Mining Engineers (within Professionals) also peaked around 2012-13, while Mining Production Managers peaked in 2013-14 and Other Construction and Mining Labourers' numbers peaked in 2011-12 and had dropped below 2010-11 levels by 2014-15.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

There are more than seventy Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Traditional Owner groups that have long continuing relationships with the Great Barrier Reef Region and its natural resources. The groups that express connections to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park are situated along the Queensland coast, from the Torres Strait Islands in the north, to near Bundaberg in the south. Traditional Owners and their continuing connection to their sea country play an integral role in the health of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). The engagement of Traditional Owners in the management of the GBR and its biodiversity reflects and recognises past generations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples for whom nature is inseparable from cultural identity. This section includes information on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples' participation in economic activity within the GBR Region and participation in cultural activities associated with the Reef.

We recognise the Traditional Owners of the Great Barrier Reef Region as custodians of these lands and acknowledge their management of and connection to the region's land and sea.

Economic participation

Investment in Reef health ensures ongoing economic benefits for Traditional Owners and partnerships with regional and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities can ensure that pressures on the Reef resulting from economic development are addressed in an effective and positive way. One of the objectives of the Department of the Environment and Energy's Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan is that Traditional Owners derive economic benefits from conservation and sustainable use of biological resources (EBO1, pg 47). This objective is supported by targets to increase the number of Traditional Owner service providers and viable businesses (EBT1, pg 47); and to increase the number of employment opportunities for Traditional Owners in sea country management and Reef-based industries (EBT2, pg 47).

According to the 2011 Census, 41% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the GBR Region aged 15 years and over were employed, compared to 62% of non-Indigenous people. This difference is explained by both a higher unemployment rate (11% compared to 3.4%) and a greater proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (43% compared to 33%) not being in the labour force (Table 1). Note that the corresponding 2016 Census data was not available at the time of publication.

Table 1. Labour force status (%), by Indigenous status, GBR region, persons aged 15 year and over, 2011

Labour force statusUnitsAboriginal and Torres Strait IslanderNon-IndigenousNot statedTotal
Employed (a)% of persons
41.3
61.6
7.0
57.2
Unemployed (b)% of persons
11.1
3.4
0.6
3.6
Not in the labour force% of persons
43.3
33.2
7.5
32.1
Not stated% of persons
4.3
1.8
84.9
7.1
Total% of persons
100
100
100
100
a. Employed includes people who worked full time, part time and away from work
b. Unemployed includes people who are looking for full-time work or part-time work
Cells in this table have been randomly adjusted to avoid the release of confidential data. No reliance should be placed on small cells.
Source: 2011 Census of Housing and Population
 

Of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people employed in the GBR Region, 4% were business owners and 94% were employees in 2011. One of the specialised park ranger positions is that of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Land and Sea Ranger. In 2011, 23% of all park ranger roles were held by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, highlighting the role that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people perform in sea-country management. In contrast, only 4% of the total employed population in the GBR Region is represented by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Table 2. Total employed park rangers, by Indigenous status for people aged 15 years and over, GBR region, 2011

  Aboriginal and Torres Strait IslanderNon-IndigenousNot statedTotal
Counts of persons('000)
0.1
0.3
-
0.5
Percentage of total%
22.5
76.4
1.3
100
- nil or rounded to zero (including null cells).
Cells in this table have been randomly adjusted to avoid the release of confidential data. No reliance should be placed on small cells.
Source: 2011 Census of Housing and Population

Cultural services

Indigenous cultural services were described in the Information Paper: An Experimental Ecosystem Account for the Great Barrier Reef Region, 2015 (cat. no. 4680.0.55.001). These were summarised into the broad categories of:

  • cultural heritage: cultural practices, observances, customs and lore;
  • spiritual and religious: sacred sites, sites of particular significance, and places important for cultural tradition;
  • educational: stories, song lines, totems and languages;
  • knowledge: Indigenous structures, technology, tools and archaeology.
     

Table 3 presents a snapshot of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples' participation in cultural activities within the GBR Region. It shows that nearly two-thirds (65%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people within the GBR Region fished in 2014-15, highlighting the significance of the Reef ecosystem as a cultural site.

Table 3. Participation in cultural activities by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons aged 15 years and over, GBR region, 2014-15

Cultural ActivityEstimatePercentage of total
 '000%
Fished
55.6
64.8
Hunted
15.2
17.7
Gathered wild plants/berries
12.5
14.6
Made any Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander Arts or crafts
15.8
18.5
Performed any Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander music, dance or theatre
13.5
15.7
Written or told Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander stories
9.7
11.3
None of the above
23.0
26.8
Total
85.8
100.0
Multiple response item. Sum of components may be great than total.
Cells in this table have been randomly adjusted to avoid the release of confidential data. Discrepancies may occur between sums of the component items and totals.
Source: 2014-15 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey.

Expenditure on environmental goods and services

Environmental goods and services include a wide range of economic products that are used with the intent of protecting the environment or maximising the efficient use of resources. The Australian, Queensland and Local Governments have all undertaken expenditure in support of protection and management activities within the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) Region. Private industry and households have also contributed to expenditures to protect the GBR Marine Park (the Reef). The range and extent of expenditures on environmental goods and services reflect various public policies and initiatives intended to protect and enhance the Reef. Data on these expenditures are therefore an important complement to data on the condition of the Reef, as both sets of data are required to assess the success of public policies and initiatives.

Environmental goods and services statistics provide: indicators of the production of environmental goods, services and technologies; the contribution of this production within the economy as a whole; and the extent of related employment and investment (SEEA-CF, para 4.93).This publication tests the application of accounting for environmental goods and services and aligns its data outputs to the objectives and targets for investment as described in the Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan (the Plan). These are as follows:

  • EBO3: Reef-associated industries are planned and managed in such a way as to protect the Reef’s Outstanding Universal Value and are sustainable, productive and profitable.
  • EBO4: Reef-dependent industries are productive and profitable based on a healthy Reef and are ecologically sustainable.
  • EBT5: The relationship between Reef health and the viability of Reef-dependent Industries (e.g. tourism and fishing) is understood and considered in planning and development decisions.
  • WQO1: Over successive decades the quality of water entering the Reef from broadscale land use has no detrimental impact on the health and resilience of the Great Barrier Reef.
  • WQO2: Over successive decades the quality of water in or entering the Reef from all sources including industrial, aquaculture, port (including dredging), urban waste and stormwater sources has no detrimental impact on the health and resilience of the Great Barrier Reef.
     

Table 1 presents expenditures on Environmental Goods and Services aimed at protecting the Reef, by type of good or service, as reported in the Reef 2050 Plan - Investment Baseline (footnote 1). Local government was the largest contributor to these expenditures, accounting for $229 million (46% of total), followed by the Australian government with $145 million (29% of total), Queensland government $78 million (16% of total) and non-government sources $41 million (8% of total). Please note that for local government and non-government sources, these are estimates only.

Table 1. Expenditure on environmental goods and services in the GBR region ($m), 2014-15

Environmental goods and servicesAustralian GovernmentQueensland GovernmentLocal GovernmentNon-governmentTotal
Environment specific services (a)
110.1
67
218.9
11.7
403.8
Integrated technologies (b)
31.8
11
2.6
33.5
78.9
Sole-purpose products (c)
na
na
na
na
na
Adapted goods (d)
na
na
na
na
na
End-of-pipe technologies (e)
na
na
na
na
na
Total environmental goods and services expenditure (f)
145.4
78
228.9
41.3
493.6
Intermediate consumption
na
na
na
na
na
Gross value added
na
na
na
na
na
Compensation of employees
na
na
na
na
na
Gross fixed capital formation
na
na
na
na
na
Imports for environmental goods and services
na
na
na
na
na
Exports of environmental goods and services
na
na
na
na
na
Employment (thousands of people)
na
na
na
na
na
na – data not available.
Any discrepancies between totals and sums of components in this publication are due to rounding.
a. Environment specific services are environmental protection and resource management specific services.
b. Integrated technologies are technical processes, methods or knowledge used in production processes that are less polluting and less resource-intensive than the equivalent “normal” technology used by other national producers. Their use is less environmentally harmful than relevant alternatives.
c. Sole-purpose products are goods (durable or non-durable) or services whose use directly serves an environmental protection or resource management purpose and that have no use except for environmental protection or resource management.
d. Adapted goods are goods that have been specifically modified to be more “environmentally friendly” or “cleaner” and whose use is therefore beneficial for environmental protection or resource management.
e. End-of-pipe (pollution treatment) technologies are mainly technical installation equipment produced for measurements, control, treatment and restoration/correction of pollution, environmental degradation, and/or resource depletion.
Source: Reef 2050 Plan - Investment Baseline, June 2015, Department of the Environment and Energy, Commonwealth of Australia.
f. Data is an estimate only for Local Government (where some organisations reported expenditure data differently) and for Non-Government (where some organisations were unable to provide a complete response for inclusion in the baseline).
 

An estimated $79 million (16% of total expenditures) was allocated to ‘Integrated technologies’ or production processes to improve water quality in 2014-15. An example of this type of investment was, for example, on programs designed to promote best agricultural management practices. However, the majority of expenditures, $404 million (84% of total expenditures), addressed ‘Environment specific services’ related to the Reef. These services include such things as monitoring of catchment loads and Crown-of-thorns starfish control programs. 'Environment specific services' are intended for the purposes of protecting the environment and the efficient use of natural resources.

Footnote

  1. While the primary data source used in this section is described as an ‘Investment Baseline’, ABS discussion throughout this section refers to ‘expenditure’ rather than ‘investment’. Investment has a specific meaning in environmental-economic accounting and relates solely to spending on capital goods i.e. goods that have an ongoing use over an extended time period. Some of the expenditures contained in the Investment Baseline are current expenditures. 

Tourism cultural services

Tourism has become the largest economic activity in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (the Reef), and a major economic activity in the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) Region. A significant share of Tourism activity in the region is related to the Great Barrier Reef and natural features such as beaches, rivers and rainforests also feature prominently among the region's attractions.

Tourist expenditure is far higher in the Wet Tropics natural resource management region (NRMR) than elsewhere even though visit numbers are not proportionately higher. This reflects the status of Cairns as a major point of origin for marine tourism activity in the Reef, especially for international travellers.

Tourism and cultural ecosystem services

Tourism activity that is dependent on ecosystems is considered to derive a "cultural ecosystem service" from nature. Some cultural services provide direct contributions to economic activity, such as tourism and recreational services. The local, non-tourism recreational use of these ecosystems is also an important feature of the amenity value of the Reef and GBR Region but is not quantified in this publication due to lack of available data.

Other cultural services are implicit in the values placed on land ownership. An example is the utility people derive from the landscape, including the value of a scenic view, or the spiritual connection of indigenous peoples to land. Many cultural services are therefore difficult to measure as exchange values. For discussion of the importance of the region's ecosystems to traditional owners, see the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples section of this publication.

This section covers both the terrestrial and marine domains of tourism activity in the GBR Region.

Tourism satellite accounts

This publication describes tourism activity and identifies factor inputs to overall tourism activity, but does not identify a specific contribution by ecosystems to tourism in the GBR Region.

Tourism is a conventional economic activity within scope of the System of National Accounts (SNA) but is defined by consumer rather than by industry classification. Tourism activity is reported within the ABS with a Tourism Satellite Account (TSA) (Australian National Accounts: Tourism Satellite Account (cat. no. 5249.0)). Estimates in this section are derived as a regional proportion of the estimates contained within the TSA.

Intangible inputs to tourism activity (including ecosystem services inputs, but not exclusively) have been estimated through the calculation of 'tourism rent' in the terrestrial domain. Ecosystem contribution is not explicitly identified as a factor of production in the SNA or the TSA. It will instead be reflected within estimates of economic rent, which is the residual calculated after known factors of production are deducted from gross output. This residual is labelled 'tourism rent' and is analogous to the resource rent observed when businesses extract economic benefit from the ownership of assets (with the difference being that tourism-related businesses do not generally own the tourist-attracting resources). Refer to the Methodology for details on this calculation.

Estimates for the marine domain are derived from an exchange value for offshore tourism access to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The section also provides some contextual information around onshore tourism activity, such as Tourism Direct Gross Value Added and regional tourism employment.

Terrestrial tourism services

Table 1 describes the size and economic contribution of tourism in the GBR Region over the period 2007-08 to 2015-16. The table presents estimates for aggregates such as tourism direct gross value added, direct tourism employment and direct tourism consumption.

Table 1. Tourism, GBR region, 2007-08 to 2015-16, selected indicators

Selected IndicatorsUnits2007-082009-102011-122013-142015-16
Direct tourism consumption (a)
$m
8 387.9
8 395.6
9 066.2
8 976.1
9 962.4
Tourism direct GVA (a)
$m
2 890.5
3 011.1
3 275.9
3 225.4
3 815.5
Tourism rent (a) (b)
$m
332.6
320.7
404.2
470.0
594.8
Tourism rent as share of tourism GVA
%
11.5
10.7
12.3
14.6
15.6
Direct tourism employment
'000
49.4
46.6
46.7
43.5
45.6
Tourism employment as share of employed persons
%
na
na
8.6
7.8
na
Tourism GVA per tourism employee (a)
dollars
58 493.6
64 557.5
70 120.2
74 148.6
83 588.0
Tourism rent per tourism employee (a) (b)
dollars
6 731.4
6 876.6
8 651.9
10 805.3
13 030.5
Number of visitors
millions
15.2
15.0
14.5
17.3
17.8
Tourism direct GVA per visitor (a)
dollars
189.9
201.1
225.2
186.0
214.3
Tourism rent per visitor (a) (b)
dollars
21.9
21.4
27.8
27.1
33.4
Number of visits to Marine Park
millions
1.9
1.9
1.8
2.0
2.3
Marine Park visitors as share of GBR Region visitors
%
12.6
12.8
12.7
11.8
12.9
na - not available
GVA - Gross Value Added
a. Current prices
b. Tourism rent is calculated via resource rent method, refer to Methodology for details
Sources: See the complete list on the Methodology page
 
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Table 1 shows the number of visitors to the GBR Region increased from 15.2 million in 2007-08 to 17.8 million in 2015-16. This change is reflected in the value of direct tourism consumption, which increased from $8.4b to $10.0b.

Tourism rent increased from 12% to 16% of tourism GVA. This means that tourism output rose faster than the cost of human inputs such as labour, materials, produced capital and finance. In other words, tourism obtained an increasing share of value from inputs by tourism attractions, including from ecosystems. Due to the nature of economic rent with regards to tourism activity, this does not define the specific ecosystem service contribution to tourism. Non-market contributors to tourism are much wider than just ecosystems. The relationship between tourism and ecosystem services varies widely by area, such that an estimate of tourism rent does not necessarily equate to an estimate of ecosystem rent. A large share of tourist activity in the GBR Region is dependent on the region's terrestrial and marine ecosystems, very likely a much greater share than for tourism in a major urban centre. Nonetheless, tourism rent will contain more than just ecosystem services input.

Tourism employed about 46,000 people in 2015-16, and between 2010-11 and 2014-15, tourism employment averaged about 8.2% of total employment in the Great Barrier Reef Region (note that the Data Cubes of this publication contain a fuller time series than the tables of this section). This would make tourism, if counted as an industry, one of the more significant employing industries in the region. As a comparison, Education and Training jobs made up about 8.1% of total jobs in the region in 2011-12. For more context on the structure of employment and businesses by industry and occupation, refer to the Employment and Business profile section.

Table 2. Tourism expenditure, by NRM region, GBR region, 2007-08 to 2015-16, current prices

Total2007-082009-102011-122013-142015-16
NRM Region$m$m$m$m$m
Burdekin
913.7
935.3
923.5
1 001.6
1 239.3
Burnett Mary
1 066.6
1 128.7
1 338.1
1 288.1
1 245.0
Cape York
126.9
94.1
111.5
102.5
130.8
Fitzroy
1 033.7
927.8
1 090.5
998.7
1 174.2
Mackay Whitsunday
1 023.9
1 207.0
1 085.8
1 118.0
978.8
Wet Tropics
2 710.0
2 527.8
2 605.6
2 678.6
3 208.6
Total GBR Region
6 874.8
6 820.8
7 155.0
7 187.5
7 976.7
Sources: International Visitors Survey (IVS) and National Visitors Survey (NVS), Tourism Research Australia (TRA).
 
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Table 2 shows tourism expenditure by NRM region in the GBR Region. The Wet Tropics NRM region recorded the highest tourism expenditure each year through the reference period. The Wet Tropics NRM is centred around Cairns, one of the major launching point for tours to the Great Barrier Reef, and also includes Port Douglas, another major location for tour launches. The Great Barrier Reef is quite close to the shoreline in this part of the catchment compared to further south. In addition to the Reef, this region includes the World Heritage listed Wet Tropical Rainforests.

Visitors made longer trips (an average of 3 nights per visitor) with greater expenditure per trip than to NRM regions further south. Wet Tropics NRM region receives over three times as many international visitors as any other NRM region. All of this paints a picture of the Wet Tropics region as an area attracting higher expenditure than in other NRM regions with comparable or greater numbers of total visitors, thanks in part to its positioning as a well-known destination specifically for ecosystem related attractions.

The fastest growth in tourism expenditure (36%) was in the Burdekin region, in which is located the GBR region's largest city, Townsville. However in contrast to the Wet Tropics region centred around Cairns, the Burdekin NRM region receives far fewer international visitors and Townsville receives far fewer visitors than Cairns who stay in hotels rather than with friends or family.

Table 2 shows that tourism expenditure in the Mackay Whitsunday region declined by 4.4% in current prices terms between 2007-08 and 2015-16, and the fuller time series available in Data Cubes also shows a decline of 19% from peaks in 2009-10 and 2012-13. This decline has been driven by domestic visitors, as international visitor expenditure continued to grow. As shown in Table 3 below, visitor numbers fell from 1.8 million in 2007-08 and 2.0 million in the 2009-10 peak, to 1.7 million in 2015-16. In addition, the average nights spent in the region per visitor fell from 3.1 to 2.7.

Table 3. Visitors and visitor nights, by NRM GBR region, 2007-08 to 2015-16, numbers (millions)

NRM RegionUnits2007-082009-102011-122013-142015-16
BurdekinVisitors (millions)
2.3
2.5
2.4
2.8
3.2
 Visitor nights (millions)
5.5
5.4
6.1
5.6
6.5
 Nights per visitor
2.4
2.1
2.5
2.0
2.0
Burnett MaryVisitors (millions)
4.7
5.2
6.1
5.6
5.5
 Visitor nights (millions)
8.5
8.4
8.9
7.9
9.0
 Nights per visitor
1.8
1.6
1.5
1.4
1.6
Cape York (a)Visitors (millions)
0.1
0.1
0.1
0.2
0.2
 Visitor nights (millions)
1.2
1.0
0.7
1.0
1.0
 Nights per visitor
9.7
7.8
5.8
4.9
4.2
FitzroyVisitors (millions)
3.3
3.5
3.6
3.2
3.4
 Visitor nights (millions)
5.6
6.7
6.7
6.8
7.4
 Nights per visitor
1.7
1.9
1.9
2.1
2.2
Mackay WhitsundayVisitors (millions)
1.8
2.0
2.0
1.9
1.7
 Visitor nights (millions)
5.6
4.9
5.7
5.0
4.7
 Nights per visitor
3.1
2.4
2.9
2.6
2.7
Wet TropicsVisitors (millions)
4.2
4.1
4.6
4.1
4.8
 Visitor nights (millions)
13.1
13.8
12.4
13.3
14.7
 Nights per visitor
3.1
3.4
2.7
3.2
3.0
Total GBR RegionVisitors (millions)
15.2
16.4
17.8
16.9
17.8
 Visitor nights (millions)
39.6
40.2
40.6
39.5
43.2
 Nights per visitor
2.6
2.4
2.3
2.3
2.4
a. Cape York estimates are based on a smaller sample size and visitor estimates should be treated with caution.
Sources: International Visitors Survey (IVS) and National Visitors Survey (NVS), Tourism Research Australia (TRA).
 
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Table 3 shows the number of visitors and the length of time (visitor nights) spent in the region and Graph 2 illustrates visitors change over time compared to the base year of 2006-07. Visitor numbers grew across the decade in every NRM region except Mackay Whitsunday where visitor numbers were over 20% lower in 2015-16 than in 2006-07. Cape York NRM region visitor numbers increased markedly after 2012-13 (by over 50% above the base year) compared to previous years. This however is based on a small sample of survey respondents and should be treated with some caution.

The average number of visitor nights per visitor in the entire GBR Region declined from 2.6 nights in 2007-08 to 2.4 in 2015-16, however, visit length in the Fitzroy region increased from 1.7 to 2.2 nights per visitor. The most visited region was Wet Tropics, which also reported far greater tourist expenditure than other regions.

Over the ten year period, visitors spent the least time, on average, in the two southernmost NRM regions of Burnett Mary and Fitzroy. Average stay lengths tended to be longer further north, with the Wet Tropics having the highest ten-year average number of visitor nights per visitor aside from Cape York.

Marine park tourism

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority levies an Environmental Management Charge (EMC) on users of the park engaging in tours and other experiences with registered operators. The EMC is collected by tourism operators from visitors to the Marine Park, and is paid to the Commonwealth Government. It contributes to the management of the Marine Park, and is applied differentially by the type of visit undertaken. Note that the actual charge value has changed through the time series.

Table 4 below shows the number of visits to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park over the period 2007-08 to 2015-16. The table also shows the value of total revenue collected through the EMC in the same period. The number of visits to the Marine Park increased from 1.9 million to 2.3 million across the reference period. The value of revenue collected in the Marine Park increased by 20 per cent from $7.3 million to $8.8 million in the same period, due to gradual increases in part-day and full-day charges. From 2012, the EMC charged by operators was reduced for three years, being offset by the Commonwealth Government. The data reported includes both components of the Environmental Management Charge.

Table 4 compares visitor numbers to the Marine Park with total tourist visits to the GBR Region. This comparison is presented to provide information on the relative scale of Reef tourism relative to GBR Region tourism. Note that there are scope differences which inhibit precise comparison. Some customers of registered operators are likely to be locals whose activity does not fall within scope of tourism surveys. Additionally, for the purpose of this account, each charge is counted as a visit to the park, though users are reminded that this does not indicate 'people day' visits. For example, one visitor may be charged more than one fee per day depending on the types of visits they are engaging in. Regardless, bearing in mind these scope differences, comparison of Marine Park EMC data and GBR Region tourism visitors suggests that over 1 in 10 visitors to the GBR Region may be visiting the Marine Park itself.

Table 4. Tourism, Great Barrier Reef marine park, 2007-08 to 2015-16

Selected Indicators2007-082009-102011-122013-142015-16
Number of visits (million)
1.9
1.9
1.8
2.0
2.3
Value of charges ($m) (a)
7.3
7.3
7.3
7.8
8.8
Number of visitors to GBR Region (millions)
15.2
15.0
14.5
17.3
17.8
Visitors to Marine Park as a share of visitors to GBR Region (percentage)
12.6
12.8
12.7
11.8
12.9
Sources: Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), International Visitors Survey (IVS) and National Visitors Survey (NVS), Tourism Research Australia (TRA).
a. Current prices.
 

The EMC is a source of funding to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and is therefore contributing to the totals within the Expenditure on Environmental Goods and Services section of this publication. These two views approximate a "supply and use" relationship wherein on the "supply side" the EMC represents a valuation of the Reef as a source of tourism cultural ecosystem services. On the "use side", the revenue derived from this value to tourists is invested back into maintaining the Reef.

Conceptually, the EMC should be considered as an entirely additional source of ecosystem service valuation, rather than as a component of Tourism Rent as discussed in this chapter. However in practice, the EMC impacts regional expenditure apportionment and thus is likely to have very slightly inflated the estimates of tourism in the region. Regardless of this, EMC is still considered to be a mostly additional measure of tourism ecosystem service valuation.

Fishing and aquaculture

Fishing and aquaculture are important economic and social activities in the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) Region. This section provides information on current structure and major trends in data on commercial, charter and harvest fishing, as well as aquaculture. While there is some data available on recreational fishing in the GBR Region, it is not included in this publication.

Commercial and harvest fishing within the GBR World Heritage Area is part of the East Coast Fishery area in Queensland. Fishing methods used include line, net, pot, otter trawl and beam trawl, along with various harvest methods. Species targeted in the area include Spanish mackerel, coral trout, sharks, crabs, scallops, bugs, barramundi, sea cucumber and aquarium fish.

Ecosystem services inputs significantly contribute to the value of fishing and aquaculture production, alongside human inputs such as labour and capital. This contribution includes the habitat for fish, breeding stock and water quality. Ecosystem services such as these are inputs into gross catch and to conditions required for aquaculture farms. This publication presents estimates of ecosystem value for the fishing and aquaculture industries, referred to as resource rent.

Fishing

In the GBR Region the ecosystem services input (calculated via the resource rent method) of fishing increased by 62%, from $28 million to $45 million, between 2004-05 and 2014-15. The full time series from 2000-01 to 2015-16 is presented in the Data downloads section.

As seen in Table 1 the value of fishing production decreased by 46%, from $190 million to $104 million, from 2001-02 to 2015-16. Physical production decreased by 46% from 15,341 tonnes to 8,259 tonnes over the same period. Licence numbers and fishing effort also decreased, by 52% and 45% respectively.

Between 2003-04 and 2004-05 the value of fishing production in the region fell by $45.7 million (25%). Over the same period, there was also smaller a decrease in tonnes produced (down by 27%), number of licences (down by 16%) and fishing effort in person days (down by 22%). Production per person day of effort was largely unchanged during this transition.

In 2004 there was a rezoning of the Marine Park and a number of commercial fishing licence quotas, across all fisheries, were bought out by the Commonwealth government. Since 1999, commercial fishing in the Reef has also been affected by many other drivers contributing to the decrease. These include; changes to management arrangements in the Trawl and Reef Line fisheries; implementation of net-free areas; the high value of the Australian dollar reducing export profits; higher fuel prices; cheap imported seafood competing with local product; the higher salaries in Mining industry for mechanically skilled staff; and an ageing workforce with fewer new fishers entering commercial fishing than older fishers retiring.

With the reduction in fishing production, the abundance of species observed in the Marine Park has been well maintained, exhibiting fluctuations in year to year observations but with no clear decline trend. Fish species abundance observed within the Reef is a measure of marine condition, for more discussion of fish species abundance within that context, refer to the section on Marine Extent and Condition.

Table 1. Fishing industry, selected indicators, GBR region, 2001-02 to 2015-16

Selected IndicatorsUnit2001-022003-042005-062007-082009-102011-122013-142015-16
Fishing production (a)tonnes
15 341
15 462
10 404
10 967
11 525
9 052
8 889
8 259
Gross Value of Production (GVP) (b)$ million
190
180
128
118
126
100
116
104
Gross Operating Surplus (GOS) (b)$ million
na
na
66
65
67
61
65
na
Ecosystem Services Input (b) (c)$ million
na
na
36
35
42
44
46
na
Ecosystem Services Input as percentage of GOS (c)%
na
na
54%
53%
62%
73%
72%
na
Commercial fishing licensesnumber
1 481
1 392
1 117
1 024
984
888
850
860
Fishing effortperson days
141 363
135 142
95 096
85 862
84 988
76 258
76 690
77 512
GVP per person day$
1 344
1 334
1 344
1 378
1 482
1 314
1 510
1 336
na -not available
a. Production is the total harvest wild fish caught within the GBR Region
b. Current prices
c. Ecosystem Services Input calculated via the resource rent method
 

Graph 1 below presents the physical production of all NRM region marine extensions in tonnes for the period 2001-02 to 2015-16. The table shows that production in all regions decreased over this period, although there was significant variance in production by weight across these regions. Fishing production in the Fitzroy NRM region marine extension recorded the largest decrease (61%), from 3,738 tonnes to 1,474 tonnes.

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Figure 1 shows changes in physical production over the reference period using data at a smaller geographic area. Most areas have recorded decreases in physical production over the time period, which includes the re-zoning and changes in quota as described above.

Figure 1. Change in fishing production volume, GBR marine park, 2000-01 to 2015-16

Figure 1. Change in fishing production volume, GBR marine park, 2000-01 to 2015-16

Figure 1. Change in fishing production volume, GBR marine park, 2000-01 to 2015-16

Image of a map showing the change in fishing production volume in the Great Barrier Reef marine park from 2000-01 to 2015-16.

Within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, the map shows the percentage change ranging from less than -75% to more than 235%, the Great Barrier Reef terrestrial region, outside area of interest and area of no data.

Source: Queensland Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing
NRM regions - Department of Environment, Cape York region and GBRMP boundary Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority

Graph 2 below presents fishing data for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) Management Sectors. This graph provides an alternative view of the spatial distribution of fishing production in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. The majority of fishing production in the northern half of the Marine Park is from the Northern Inshore Management Sector (between 78% and 91% over the period 2001-02 to 2015-16), while further south, production is more evenly spread between inshore and offshore areas.

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Source(s): Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (QLD DAF)

The two southern sectors contain most fishing production, accounting for between 69% and 78% of total production between 2001-02 and 2015-16. All sectors recorded a decrease in the production of fish over the reference period, with the largest change in the Northern Offshore Sector, recording a decrease of 71%.

Aquaculture

Data on aquaculture production is only available for the total GBR Region.

Between 2004-05 and 2011-12 the ecosystem services input, or resource rent, of aquaculture in the GBR Region decreased by $3.7 million (26%). In the following year it increased by 55% to $25 million, before dropping to $21 million in 2014-15.

Aquaculture production almost doubled over the period from 2001-02 to 2013-14, increasing in value by 103% and in volume by 93%. This resulted in an increase of 5% in the value aquacultural production per kilogram of products harvested across the accounting period.

Table 2. Aquaculture industry, selected indicators, GBR region, 2000-01 to 2014-15

 Units2000-012002-032004-052006-072008-092010-112012-132014-15
Productiontonnes
2 485
3 575
3 957
4 349
4 271
5 493
5 064
6 662
Gross Value of Production (GVP) (a)$ million
35.6
38.1
48.8
49.9
58.9
62.8
60.6
86
Gross Operating Surplus (GOS) (a)$ million
na
na
28
28
30
27
27
39
Ecosystem Services Input (a) (b)$ million
na
na
14.7
14.6
16.3
11.3
17
21.1
Ecosystem Services Input as percentage of GOS (b)%
na
na
52
52
54
42
63
55
na - not available
a. Current prices
b. Ecosystem Services Input calculated via the resource rent method
 

Agriculture and forestry

The Agriculture and Forestry industries are key components of the economy of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) Catchment Area. The terrestrial ecosystem services that support the Agriculture and Forestry industries include the capture, storage, and cycling of soil water and nutrients and pollination. These contribute to the production and harvest of crops, fodder for livestock and generation of plantation stock. This section presents physical production and value of production for key agriculture and forestry outputs. Ecosystem services input is also presented, which estimates the monetary value of the ecosystem services provided for the production of outputs.

Agriculture

The value of ecosystem services input (measured as resource rent) into food and materials production in the GBR Catchment Area rose from $205 million to $1,227 million over the period of 2007-08 to 2014-15. The value of ecosystem services to these industries was approximately 12% of gross operating surplus (GOS) in 2007-08, increasing to 44% in 2014-15. The rise in the ecosystem services input estimate was due to the rise in production, without the cost of human inputs increasing as significantly. This led to growth in both GOS and the residual attributed to ecosystems. In the case of agriculture, the end of the Millennium Drought resulted in increased productivity of the land, providing more ecosystem services inputs such as water, pollination and soil nutrients, as well as reducing the human inputs required to produce a given quantity of agricultural outputs. In addition, since the Global Financial Crisis, interest rates in Australia were lower than previously set. Lower lending rates led to produced capital being cheaper to purchase, finance cheaper to service, and greater economic rent was extracted from a given productive activity while being sold at a given price level.

In 2014-15, the total value of production for the Agriculture industry in the GBR Catchment Area was estimated to be $5,714 million, an increase of 31% from 2007-08. The value of production in the Fitzroy NRM region increased by $528 million (or 45%), which was the largest increase in value of production in the GBR Catchment Area. This was followed by the Wet Tropics and Burdekin NRM regions, which increased by 33% and 29% respectively. In 2014-15 the vast majority of Agricultural production within the GBR Catchment Area was food ($5,512 million) and the remaining was for materials production ($202 million).

Food provisioning also accounted for the vast majority of Agricultural production in tonnes. In 2014-15 the GBR Catchment Area produced 32.4 million tonnes of food. From 2007-08 to 2010-11 food production decreased by 23%, and then increased by 27% between 2010-11 to 2014-15, slightly increasing across the entire period as a whole. Changes in production volume were driven almost entirely by fluctuations in the production of sugar cane, which averaged 90% of GBR food production by weight between 2007-08 and 2014-15. The majority of sugar production occurs in the Wet Tropics, Burdekin and Mackay Whitsunday NRM regions.

Table 1. Agriculture, selected indicators, GBR catchment area, EVAO>$5,000 (2007-08 to 2014-15)

Selected IndicatorsUnits2007-082008-092009-102010-112011-122012-132013-142014-15
Total food production
000 tonnes
32 993.8
32 099.6
31 321.8
25 521.2
26 327.3
28 320.3
31 352.1
32 409.8
Total food value (a)
$ million
4 182.5
4 403.8
4 274.1
4 036.0
4 265.8
4 490.2
4 918.0
5 512.3
Total agricultural materials production
000 tonnes
218.6
459.2
166.1
201.5
278.5
277.2
314.8
379.1
Total agricultural materials value (a)
$ million
177.2
205.6
220.1
213.2
254.6
237.3
251.9
201.8
Agriculture regional Gross Operating Surplus (GOS) (a)
$ million
1 750.3
2 088.2
2 176.9
2 081.9
2 294.1
2 449.7
2 463.2
2 793.3
Ecosystem Services Input (a) (b)
$ million
205.4
433.8
410.4
636.9
980.7
1 049.1
972.7
1 226.5
Ecosystem Services Input as percentage of GOS (b)
%
12
21
19
31
43
43
39
44
EVAO (Estimated Value of Agricultural Operations) - refers to the scope of data collection for the estimates
a. current prices
b. Ecosystem Services Input calculated via the resource rent method
Notes
Some of the physical estimates are modelled, refer to the Explanatory Notes for more details.
Agricultural materials production quantity excludes cut flowers, nurseries and cultivated turf.
2007-08 estimates exclude poultry eggs.
 

Table 2 below provides a breakdown of the production of selected commodity groups for the GBR Catchment Area. Meat cattle was the highest value product in the agriculture industry, accounting for 42% of the total value of production in 2014-15. This was followed by Horticulture (24%), Sugar (21%) and Broadacre crops (6%). From 2007-08 to 2014-15 the value of Meat cattle production increased by 50%. A significant component of this increase came from the Fitzroy NRM region, which in 2014-15 accounted for $1.2 billion, or just over 50%, of the value of the total Meat cattle production in the GBR Catchment Area. Prior to this, from 2012-13 to 2014-15, Meat cattle production increased by $969 million, or 68%. This increase broadly reflected an increase in Australian export beef prices.

'Agriculture materials', in monetary terms, covers product categories such as nurseries, cut flowers, cultivated turf, cotton, and hay and silage. In physical terms (in the tables in this section) it consists almost entirely of hay and silage. The gross value of production of agricultural materials in the GBR Catchment Area increased by 42% between 2007-08 to 2013-14, from $177.2 million to $251.9 million, before decreasing by 20% the following year to $201.8 million.

Table 2. Agriculture, selected commodities groups GBR catchment area, EVAO>5,000(2007-08 to 2014-15)

 Units2007-082008-092009-102010-112011-122012-132013-142014-15
 
'000 tonnes
2 091.5
1 124.6
1 438.6
1 082.9
1 276.0
1 086.3
1 183.7
1 116.7
Broadacre crops (a)
$ million (b)
370.4
292.0
238.2
257.1
261.2
307.8
312.6
324.2
 
'000 tonnes
29 404.6
29 299.7
28 262.4
23 054.6
23 430.2
25 738.6
28 483.7
29 591.9
Sugar
$ million (b)
788.7
992.4
1 268.4
867.3
1 034.8
1 055.6
1 139.8
1 195.2
 
'000 tonnes
739.9
915.8
915.7
678.7
891.3
823.6
829.9
864.3
Horticulture
$ million (b)
1 194.8
1 267.5
1 158.0
1 209.3
1 214.3
1 486.3
1 296.9
1 349.6
 
'000 tonnes
496.9
476.4
424.7
451.1
469.9
457.6
570.7
586.5
Meat cattle (c)
$ million (b)
1 594.3
1 598.0
1 338.5
1 478.6
1 537.8
1 423.5
1 887.0
2 393.4
 
'000 tonnes
260.9
283.0
280.4
254.1
259.9
214.2
284.1
250.4
Other livestock products (d)
$ million (b)
234.2
253.9
271.0
223.7
217.7
217.1
281.8
249.9
 
'000 tonnes
32 993.8
32 099.6
31 321.8
25 521.2
26 327.3
28 320.3
31 352.1
32 409.8
Total food production
$ million (b)
4 182.5
4 403.8
4 274.1
4 036.0
4 265.8
4 490.2
4 918.0
5 512.3
 
'000 tonnes
218.6
459.2
166.1
201.5
278.5
277.2
314.8
379.1
Total agricultural materials production
$ million (b)
177.2
205.6
220.1
213.2
254.6
237.3
251.9
201.8
EVAO (Estimated Value of Agricultural Operations) - refers to the scope of data collection for the estimates
a. Broadacre crops excludes sugar and cotton
b. Current prices
c. Meat cattle includes calves
d. Other livestock products includes, pig meat, sheep meat, poultry meat, poultry eggs & cow milk
Notes
Some of the physical estimates are modelled, refer to the Explanatory Notes for more details.
Agricultural materials production quantity excludes cut flowers, nurseries and cultivated turf.
2007-08 estimates exclude poultry eggs.
 

The peak flooding event of 2010-11 and its impact on marine condition are discussed elsewhere in this publication. Rainfall is discussed in the Terrestrial Extent and Condition section and the impacts of peak rainfall events are discussed in the Marine Extent and Condition section. The impacts of this event on agricultural production appear to have been broadly negative, with marked declines in tonnes produced in Sugar (by 19%), Horticulture (26%) and Broadacre crops (25%) in conjunction with the extremely high rainfall, cyclones and flooding of that year. Livestock meat production appears to have been only fallen by a small amount. This does not dismiss a relationship between agricultural production and the impact of agricultural runoff on water quality; rather, it suggests that the timing of any such impacts would be determined more by peak rainfall events than by timing of the productive activity itself.

2015-16 estimates are presented below with a different scope to the data presented for earlier years, with estimates covering businesses with estimated gross value of agricultural operations (EVAO) greater than $40,000. "The change in scope better aligns this collection with contemporary definitions of an agricultural business and reduces the overall reporting load for smaller agricultural businesses." For further information please refer to the Methodology in Agricultural Commodities, Australia, 2015-16 (cat. no. 7121.0).

Total value of production in 2015-16 was $6.2 billion. Cattle and calf meat made up 45% of this value, with a gross value of $2.8 billion. Presented below are production and value by each NRM region within the GBR Catchment Area.

Table 3. Production and value of selected agriculture commodities, GBR catchment area, EVAO>$40,000 (2015-16)

 BurdekinBurnett MaryCape YorkFitzroyMackay WhitsundayWet TropicsGBR Total
 Gross Value ($m) (a)
Broadacre crops (b)
40.6
38.1
0.2
182.3
2.7
8.8
272.8
Sugar
431.3
137.4
0.0
1.8
235.3
362.0
1 167.7
Horticulture
257.7
658.2
3.4
44.1
17.8
508.1
1 489.3
Meat cattle (c)
722.8
444.4
38.5
1 465.0
64.5
89.4
2 824.6
Other livestock products (d)
18.7
158.3
0.2
29.9
1.8
59.8
268.8
Total food production
1 471.1
1 436.5
42.3
1 723.1
322.2
1 028.1
6 023.2
 
Total agricultural materials production
13.5
48.2
0.4
101.8
3.7
25.5
193.0
 
Production ('000 tonnes)
Broadacre crops (b)
115.4
75.9
0.4
446.4
7.7
25.2
671.1
Sugar
11 513.5
3 666.6
0.0
48.1
6 280.9
9 662.1
31 171.1
Horticulture
150.9
223.8
2.8
21.4
1.8
401.6
802.3
Meat cattle (c)
136.6
84.0
7.3
276.8
12.2
16.9
533.6
Other livestock products (d)
6.9
62.9
0.1
11.9
0.6
30.0
112.4
Total food production
11 923.2
4 113.2
10.6
804.6
6 303.2
10 135.8
33 290.5
Total agricultural materials production
25.7
59.1
1.9
90.1
5.8
11.0
193.5
EVAO (Estimated Value of Agricultural Operations) - refers to the scope of data collection for the estimates
a. Current prices
b. Broadacre crops excludes sugar and cotton
c. Meat cattle includes calves.
d. Other livestock products includes, pig meat, sheep meat, poultry meat, poultry eggs & cow milk
Notes
Some of the physical estimates are modelled, refer to the Explanatory Notes for more details.
Agricultural materials production quantity excludes cut flowers, nurseries and cultivated turf.
2007-08 estimates exclude poultry eggs.
 

The six NRM regions each have quite different agricultural production patterns. Four of the six NRM regions produced over $1 billion in gross value, with Fitzroy the highest at $1.7 billion. Cape York has a much smaller population than the other regions and Mackay Whitsunday has the smallest land area.

In Mackay Whitsunday, sugar production was the most valuable agricultural activity. Meat cattle was the predominant source of gross value in the Burdekin and Fitzroy NRM regions as well as in the much smaller Cape York agricultural industry. In Burnett Mary and Wet Tropics NRM regions, Horticulture was the most valuable production activity. Wet Tropics horticultural production consists mostly of bananas while in Burnett Mary production is more diverse, including mandarins, macadamias, avocados and various vegetables.

In terms of area, in June 2017 the ABS published Land Account: Queensland, Experimental Estimates, 2011 - 2016 (cat. no. 4609.0.55.003), which featured an article, Accounting for Land Changes in the Great Barrier Reef. Grazing covers 32 million hectares of the 48 million hectares in the GBR Catchment Area. In recent years, livestock grazing expanded in net terms into land which was previously classed as 'vacant residential' and 'other agriculture - cropping', while losing land, in net terms, to land classed to 'extractive industries'.

The predominance of grazing use observed in the Land Account means that as well as being a major source of value to the agriculture industry, livestock production is a major custodian of land in the GBR Catchment Area. This means that practices and behaviour in that industry are likely to influence the availability of landscape regulatory ecosystem services condition in the region. For more detail on change in regulatory ecosystem services provided by landscapes in the GBR Catchment area, see the Regulating Ecosystem Services section.

Forestry

The Forestry industry harvests timber to be used throughout the economy. Similarly to Agriculture, the Forestry industry benefits from the input of range of environmental services. These services have been measured in this publication as an input to production, valued using the resource rent method. In 2014-15 the ecosystem contribution to production in the Forestry industry in the GBR Catchment Area was $28.5 million, accounting for 61% of the gross operating surplus. Between 2010-11 and 2014-15 the ecosystem service input estimated for the industry fluctuated between $9.4 million and $28.5 million.

Between 2010-11 and 2012-13, forestry log harvest decreased by 26% from 915,000 m³ to 726,000 m³, before increasing by 22% over the following 2 years to 886,700 m³ in 2014-15. The total value of the log harvest followed a similar pattern of decline followed by rise, but increased by more from the 2012-13 base to 2014-15, rising by about 30%.

Table 4. Forestry industry, selected indicators, GBR catchment area (2010-11 to 2014-15)

Selected IndicatorsUnit2010-112011-122012-132013-142014-15
Total Log Harvest
'000 m³
915
977.9
726.4
735.1
886.7
Total Value of Log Harvest (a)
$ million
80.4
75
59.4
59.9
77.3
Forestry industry regional Gross Operating Surplus (GOS) (a)
$ million
36.3
38.4
32.4
38.9
46.7
Ecosystem Services Input (a) (b)
$ million
9.4
16.5
11.2
15.3
28.5
Ecosystem Services Input as percentage of GOS (b)
%
26
43
35
39
61
a. Current prices
b. Ecosystem Services Input calculated via the resource rent method
Notes
Refer to the Methodology page for details on how estimates were modelled.
 

The proportion of forestry taking place in native forests compared to plantations is important from an ecosystem services perspective. This breakdown is unavailable for the GBR Catchment Area, but on a statewide basis (of which the GBR is 43% in terms of employee income), 12% of forestry production was from native forests and 86% from plantations in 2014-15.

Water

This section details the use of water by the agriculture industry in the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) Catchment Area. In 2014-15, the ABS Water Account, Australia (cat. no. 4610), showed that around 60% of water consumption in Queensland was by the agriculture industry – this proportion is estimated to be higher in the GBR Catchment Area because of the relative concentration of Queensland agricultural production in this region.

Graph 1 below shows average annual rainfall in the GBR Catchment Area from 2010-11 to 2015-16. It shows that recorded rainfall peaked during the extreme weather events in 2010-11 and decreased across subsequent years. Graph 2 shows that, in contrast, the use of irrigated water for agricultural activities in the GBR Catchment Area has increased steadily between 2010-11 to 2015-16, by an estimated 135%, from 773,979 ML in 2010-11 to 1,821,593 ML in 2015-16. This illustrates that farms have a greater need for irrigation when rainfall is low.

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Graph 3 below shows the increase in water use in the GBR Catchment Area between 2010-11 and 2015-16 was mostly due to the increase in the Burdekin NRM region. Burdekin was the NRM which accounted for the largest proportion of water use in the GBR Catchment Area, representing 58% of water used for agricultural activity in 2015-16. Agricultural water use in the Burdekin region increased steadily from 2010-11 to 2015-16, from 395,868 ML to 1,049,465 ML, an increase of 165%. In 2015-16 the region received the lowest amount of recorded rainfall in the GBR Catchment Area (see Table 4.1 in the Data downloads section), explaining the higher use of irrigation water.

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Graph 4 below displays the gross value of selected irrigated agricultural commodities for the GBR Catchment Area between 2010-11 and 2014-15. Sugar had the highest value of irrigated production, 32% of the total in 2014-15. The value of sugar production increased sharply after the 2010-11 cane crop was damaged in the flooding in 2010-11, from $365.4 million in 2010-11 to $634.6 million in 2011-12.

In 2014-15, sugar accounted for 69% of total water applied to agricultural activity and 90% of agricultural production by tonnage (see the Agriculture and Forestry section). After sugar, fruit and nut production had the next highest gross value of irrigated production with 28% of the total in the GBR Catchment Area in 2014-15.

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Table 1 reports estimated water storage held in large urban and rural dams in the GBR Catchment Area. Of the recorded dams, the Fitzroy NRM region has the highest proportion of urban storage as of June 2016, representing 81% of total recorded urban storage in the GBR Catchment Area. In terms of rural storage the Burdekin NRM region recorded the highest share with 42% of the total for the GBR Catchment Area in 2016.

Between 30 June 2014 and 30 June 2016, holding of water in urban storages in the GBR Catchment Area decreased by 21%, while the holding of water in rural storages decreased by 8%.

Table 1. Water storage in large dams, by NRM region, GBR catchment area, 2014-2016

 201420152016
MLMLML
 
Urban
200 099
101 062
61 220
Burdekin
Rural
1 865 214
1 472 537
1 865 214
 
Urban
39 650
57 950
45 750
Burnett Mary
Rural
1 140 905
1 311 197
1 216 527
 
Urban
na
na
na
Cape York
Rural
na
na
na
 
Urban
685 167
685 167
618 981
Fitzroy
Rural
718 335
881 422
610 766
 
Urban
na
na
na
Mackay Whitsunday
Rural
657 297
532 844
496 241
 
Urban
34 698
34 698
34 698
Wet Tropics
Rural
415 739
371 977
240 691
 
Urban
959 613
878 877
760 649
Total GBR
Rural
4 797 490
4 569 977
4 429 438
na not available
Source: Bureau of Meteorology.
 

Carbon

This section presents biocarbon stock accounts for the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) Region, estimating the amount of carbon stored in Australia’s terrestrial ecosystems in each year since 1989. The ability to store carbon in soil and vegetation (biocarbon) is referred to as a regulating ecosystem service, because the removal of excessive atmospheric carbon by storing it in the biosphere benefits the economy and society through climate regulation. This information can be combined with economic information to help shape priorities for the use of Australia’s land and marine assets.

To demonstrate this, the ABS presents analysis by the Department of the Environment and Energy on a biocarbon stock account for carbon stored in above ground biomass, below ground biomass, and harvested wood products within the GBR Region (note that offshore islands including the Torres Strait are in scope for this analysis). Greenhouse gas flows, atmospheric carbon stocks and geocarbon (fossil fuel) stocks are out of scope for this publication. Marine ecosystems also have significant capacity to store carbon as biocarbon, particularly seagrass meadows. There are no formal accounts for this storage capacity, and it is not considered in this report, however one estimate has found that seagrass meadows sequester carbon 35 times faster than rainforests.

The GBR Region held 2.8 Gt of biocarbon in the year ending June 2016 - this was a net decrease of 0.14 Gt from the 1989 reference year (Graph 1).

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Source(s): Department of the Environment and Energy, Commonwealth of Australia

Graph 2, below, shows the year-to-year change of total biocarbon stocks. The rate of decrease in biocarbon stocks was very rapid between 1989 and 1997, but has slowed in recent years. This reduced rate of loss of biocarbon can be attributed to forest regrowth and slowing of losses from grasslands, resulting in net gain of forest carbon stocks from 2008 to present. Although forest carbon has increased, there has still been an overall net decrease of biocarbon stored in the GBR Region.

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Source(s): Department of the Environment and Energy, Commonwealth of Australia

There are differences in vegetation communities’ capacity to store carbon. These differences relate directly to the area covered by each community and to the density of carbon stored above and below ground by that community. As shown in Graph 3 below, 'Forests' stored the greatest amount of carbon above and below ground, with a combined total of 2,134 Mt C (76%) in 2015-16, followed by 'Grasslands' and 'Mangroves', with 435 Mt C (15%) and 149 Mt C (5%) respectively. While 'Mangroves' only accounted for 5% of the total stored carbon in the region, they recorded the highest density, 687 tonnes per hectare, followed by 'Forests' with 108 tonnes per hectare being stored in the year ending June 2016. 'Grasslands' accounted for a large portion of the carbon stocks, due to its expansive land cover, rather than its carbon density.

In 2016, 68% of the total biocarbon was stored below ground in soil stocks.

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  1. Forests are defined as being ≥2m in height and ≥20% canopy cover. Where a settlement or wetland is forested on this criteria, it is classified as a forest, unless it is a Mangrove;
  2. Grasslands also includes settlements and inland wetlands that are not also a forest. This includes areas of sparse woody vegetation that do not meet the forest definition;
  3. Mangroves are identified using the same height and canopy criteria for forests along coastal areas;
  4. Croplands includes areas of crop growth and excludes grazing areas that are not part of a rotaiontal cropping and grazing system. Above ground biomass includes perennial horticulture such as orchards, an biomass to account for transient crops such as sugarcane.;
  5. Tidal marshes are principally coastal wetlands that do not meet the definition of a forest.

Source(s): Department of the Environment and Energy, Commonwealth of Australia

The Department of the Environment and Energy included a special topic on biocarbon stocks in the GBR Region in their Quarterly Update of Australia's National Greenhouse Gas Inventory: March 2017.

Regulating ecosystem services

This section presents experimental estimates of regulating ecosystem services in the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) Catchment Area, by NRM region and type of regulating service.

Ecosystems have the capacity to regulate climate, hydrologic and biochemical cycles, earth surface processes, and a variety of biological processes. Where the regulating capacity of an ecosystem contributes to benefits used in human and other activity, a regulating ecosystem service has taken place (footnote 1). Ecosystems vary in both the types of regulatory functions carried out and capacity to carry out these functions. Regulating ecosystem services can vary significantly over time and between ecosystems. For example, a healthy wetland ecosystem has a greater capacity to provide water regulation services than an urban area.

Table 1 below describes some of the regulating services identified in the GBR Catchment Area and examples of benefits that potentially arise from these services.

Table 1. Regulating services and benefits obtained

Regulating serviceExamples of benefits
Erosion ProtectionReduced sediment loads in water and reduced deposition of downstream water basins.
Water quality/purificationCleaner water from pollution control, detoxification and waste assimilation.
Water regulationRestoring natural hydrological flows to allow groundwater recharge and discharge that support groundwater dependant ecosystems, such as wetlands.
Hazard reductionReduction of impacts against extreme natural events like drought, floods and storms.
Sources: SEEA-EEA 2012; Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.
 

Experimental estimates contained in Table 2 (footnote 2) show scores that provide a comparison of each NRM regions' capacity to provide regulating services from pre-clear (pre-European) to 2009 (footnote 3). These scores quantify the capacity of each NRM region to deliver a suite of ecological processes that together represent an indicator of regulating services. Capacity has been measured at a regional level and on a scale of 0.0 (poor capacity) to 5.0 (highest capacity).

Table 2. Ecosystem capacity to provide regulating service, indicator score, by NRM region, GBR catchment area, pre-clear (pre-European) and 2009

Regulating Servicespre-clear Value2009 Value% Change
Erosion protection
 Burdekin
3.5
1.9
-46
 Burnett Mary
4.1
2.2
-46
 Fitzroy
3.0
2.0
-33
 Mackay Whitsunday
4.1
2.7
-34
 Wet Tropics
4.1
2.7
-34
Water quality/purification
 Burdekin
3.1
1.7
-45
 Burnett Mary
3.5
2.2
-37
 Fitzroy
2.9
2.2
-24
 Mackay Whitsunday
3.6
2.7
-25
 Wet Tropics
3.6
2.6
-28
Hazard Reduction
 Burdekin
3.6
2.0
-44
 Burnett Mary
4.5
1.7
-62
 Fitzroy
3.6
2.0
-44
 Mackay Whitsunday
4.4
3.0
-32
 Wet Tropics
4.4
2.4
-46
Water Regulation
 Burdekin
3.9
1.8
-54
 Burnett Mary
4.2
1.9
-55
 Fitzroy
3.8
1.9
-50
 Mackay Whitsunday
4.2
2.9
-31
 Wet Tropics
4.1
2.5
-39
Notes
Data were not available for Cape York.
Scores are measured on a scale 0.0 (poor capacity) to 5.0 (highest capacity)
Source: Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, 2017
 

Changes in capacity arise from both changes in the extent and types of coastal ecosystems (estuaries, woodlands, etc.) and land use (conservation, urban areas, production grazing, sugar etc.) taking place within each NRM region. Figures 1 and 2 show these landscapes have changed over time. All NRM regions reported significant declines in regulating capacity for erosion protection, water quality, hazard protection and pollination between the period of pre-clear (pre-European) and 2009.

Figure 1. Coastal ecosystems, GBR catchment area, pre-clear and 2009

Figure 1. Coastal ecosystems, GBR catchment area, pre-European and 2009

Figure 1. Coastal ecosystems, GBR catchment area, pre-clear and 2009

Image of two comparative maps showing the Coastal ecosystems, Great Barrier Reef catchment area, pre-clear and 2009.

The first image on the left shows the Pre-clear Coastal Ecosystems, Great Barrier Reef Catchment area and depicts the Estuaries, Freshwater wetlands, Forested floodplain, Grass and sedgelands, Health and shrublands, Woodlands, Forests, Rainforests, Non-remnant, Exposed Reef, Mainland and islands.

The second image on the right shows the 2009 Coastal Ecosystems, Great Barrier Reef Catchment and depicts the Estuaries, Freshwater wetlands, Forested floodplain, Grass and sedgelands, Health and shrublands, Woodlands, Forests, Rainforests, Non-remnant, Exposed Reef, Mainland and islands.

Source: Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority

Figure 2. Land use, GBR catchment area, 2009

Figure 2. Land use, GBR Catchment Area, 2009

Figure 2. Land use, GBR catchment area, 2009

Image of a map showing the Land use, Great Barrier Reef Catchment Area, 2009.

The image shows the 2009 Land Use Great Barrier Reef Catchment.
Area north of Cooktown is 1999 Landuse Mapping.

The map depicts the areas of; Conservation, natural environments (in wetlands), Forestry - production, Grazing natural vegetation, Intensive animal production, Intensive commercial, Intensive mining, Intensive urban residential, Production - dryland, Production, irrigated, Water - production ponded pastures, Water storage and transport, Exposed reef, Mainland and islands.

Source: Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority

Figures 1 and 2 above show that significant portions of 'Grazing natural vegetation' cover non-remnant vegetation areas of the catchment, but also that grazing takes place in areas that retain pre-European coastal ecosystems. This results in the nature of grazing activity and practices having a particularly significant influence over the regulating capacity of the catchment. Data on land use within the GBR Catchment Area is presented in the Terrestrial Extent and Condition section and shows that 32 million hectares are made up of 'Livestock Grazing' of the total 48 million hectares of the GBR Catchment Area. Users should note that this section and the Terrestrial Extent and Condition section use different classifications for land use and also for the NRM boundaries (refer to Methodology).

Estimating and communicating changes in ecological regulating capacity is important for understanding emerging environmental issues and for informing policy related to ecosystem health. It can be used to inform priorities on investment in land use and their management practices, and for ongoing monitoring of effectiveness of these investments.

In response to challenges facing the GBR Region, the Australian and Queensland governments have developed The Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan (the Plan). The Plan presents actions to protect Reef values, health and resilience, while allowing ecologically sustainable development and use. A key element of the Plan is developing ecosystem resilience in the face of a variable and changing climate – for both marine and terrestrial ecosystems. To achieve this, the Plan outlines objectives and targets, including Water Quality Objective 1 and Water Quality Targets 1 and 2. In this context, metrics of regulating capacity related to erosion protection, water purification services, and hazard reduction within the landscape, provide important leading indicators of future changes to water quality and the health of the GBR Region.

Footnotes

  1. System of Environmental-Economic Accounting – Experimental Ecosystem Accounting (SEEA EEA) pp 155-156
  2. Estimates produced by the Great Barrier Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA)
  3. The pre-European settlement period is referred to as ‘pre-clear’ by the GBRMPA

Data downloads

Table 1. Summary of findings

Table 2. Marine extent and condition

Table 3. Terrestrial extent and condition (land account)

Table 4. Terrestrial extent and condition (river loads)

Table 5. Biodiversity

Table 6. Employment and business profile

Table 7. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

Table 8. Expenditure on environmental goods and services

Table 9. Tourism

Table 10. Fishing and aquaculture

Table 11. Agriculture and forestry

Table 12. Water

Table 13. Carbon

Table 14. Regulating ecosystem services

All data cubes

History of changes

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21/08/2017 - Please note there was an update to TABLE 1. FISHING INDUSTRY, SELECTED INDICATORS, GBR REGION, 2001-02 to 2015-16 in Fishing & Aquaculture. Data was updated for 2011-12 estimates of number of Commercial fishing licenses and number of person days of Fishing Effort.

About environmental-economic accounts for the Great Barrier Reef

The ABS is currently utilising data for this publication that are 'accounts ready' (much of which are already released to the public). This publication should be considered experimental, as improvements to methods and new data sources continue to become available. The ABS will be seeking input from key stakeholders with the intention of addressing issues and concerns in future updates. The ABS offers grateful thanks to those stakeholders and data providers that have already provided valuable input into this publication.

The Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is an Australian icon, listed in 1981 as a world heritage property on the basis of its natural outstanding universal value (OUV). Its natural beauty and representation of major stages in the Earth’s evolutionary history (including anthropogenic interaction with the environment) has prompted its recognition internationally as one of the most precious ecosystems on Earth (GBRMPA, 2014). Our expanding ability to measure the condition, economic activity and social aspects of the GBR supports better decision making for this important Australian region.

The GBR is managed under the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975 (Cth) to provide for the multiple uses of the Reef where biodiversity and heritage values are protected, as well as the social and economic aspects of the environment.

The Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area totals 348,000 km². The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is slightly smaller at 344,400 km². The remaining 3,600 km² of the World Heritage Area falls under the jurisdiction of the Queensland State Government and includes islands, ports and other internal waters.

In April 2015, the ABS published an Information Paper: An Experimental Ecosystem Account for the Great Barrier Reef Region, 2015 (cat. no. 4680.0.55.001). This publication applied the principles of the United Nations endorsed System of Environmental-Economic Accounts: Experimental Ecosystem Accounts (SEEA-EEA) to the GBR Region for demonstration and learning.

The SEEA framework assures consistency with the System of National Accounts (SNA). Over time, the SEEA framework will assist stakeholders to assess how social, economic and environmental goals can be appropriately balanced. To this end, the ABS uses the SEEA to produce accounts that describe indicators of resource use and environmental intensity, indicators of production, employment and expenditure relating to environmental activities and indicators of environmental assets, net wealth, income and depletion of resources.

This publication extends the scope of the 2015 information paper to inform a wider range of environmental-economic issues. These issues are selected from those nominated in The Reef 2050 Plan or otherwise considered to be important to the region.

The additional accounts include; carbon stock accounts (biocarbon in the GBR landscape), marine water quality accounts, water use accounts and environmental goods and services statistics (investment by government, industry and households to protect the GBR while still achieving economic goals). The inclusion of these accounts has three main aims:

  • to increase the public value of statistics,
  • to demonstrably improve policy-makers’ ability to detect economic problems emerging from changes to environmental assets and
  • to demonstrate the ongoing ability of SEEA-compliant environmental-economic (including ecosystem) accounts to inform programs such as the Reef 2050 Plan.
     

For all topics covered in this publication, datacubes with more comprehensive tables in the form of Excel spreadsheets are available in the Data downloads section.

This publication includes experimental estimates that indicate the changing capacity of ecosystems to regulate water and air quality. Selected Reef 2050 Plan objectives, targets and environmental protection expenditure have been included, prepared in a SEEA-compliant manner and presented in time-series formats.

The ABS is committed to further engaging stakeholders on how best to meet data needs arising from issues emerging or existing within the GBR. Examples of possible future data additions include an analysis of mining impacts and further indicators related to environmental research activity in the region.

Please note the distinction between the following terms to describe the GBR used throughout this publication:

  • Great Barrier Reef Catchment Area (GBR Catchment Area) - describes the mainland terrestrial area lying adjacent to the GBR, comprising of six Natural Resource Management (NRM) regions: Burdekin, Burnett Mary, Cape York, Fitzroy, Mackay Whitsunday and Wet Tropics. These NRM regions are comprised of forty drainage basins which drain directly into the GBR lagoon.
  • Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (the Reef) - the GBR marine ecosystem. Boundaries of the GBR Marine Park were proclaimed under Subsection 31(1) of the GBR Reef Marine Park Act 1975 (Cth).
  • Great Barrier Reef Region (GBR Region) - describes the entire region, both terrestrial and marine.

Previous catalogue number

This release previously used catalogue number 4680.0