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Northeastern Australia: the Great Barrier Reef region
Zann, L.P. (2000). Northeastern Australia: the Great Barrier Reef region, in: Sheppard, C.R.C. (Ed.) Seas at the millennium: an environmental evaluation: 2. Regional chapters: The Indian Ocean to The Pacific. pp. 611-628
In: Sheppard, C.R.C. (Ed.) (2000). Seas at the millennium: an environmental evaluation: 2. Regional chapters: The Indian Ocean to The Pacific. Pergamon: Amsterdam. ISBN 0-08-043207-7. XXI, 920 pp., more

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Document type: Review

Keyword
    Marine

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  • Zann, L.P.

Abstract
    The Great Barrier Reef on Queensland's continental shelf is around 2000 kIn long, consists of over 2800 reefs and is the largest complex of coral reefs in the world. It is also one of the most diverse large marine ecosystems, with tropical estuaries, seagrass beds, continental and coral islands, shelf benthos, and fringing, platform and ribbon reefs. Offshore in Australia's Coral Sea Islands Territory are oceanic coral reefs, plateaus and deep water basins. The human population of the GBR Catchment is relatively low (one million), and the far north is largely uninhabited. Most of the reefs lie considerable distances offshore, and human impacts are largely focused around coastal population centres. However large-scale clearing of catchments for cattle grazing and sugarcane has resulted in major land erosion and increases of sediments and nutrients entering into coastal waters. This may be causing degradation of the distinctive inner-shelf reefs in some areas. Direct human uses include recreational and commercial fishing, tourism and shipping, but these are not large by world standards. The GBR Marine Park (area 344,(XX) km2) is a multiple-use marine protected area, the largest in the world. The GBR Marine Park is a model for multiple-use, large ecosystem management. There is a good scientific information base and the GBR Marine Park is generally well resourced and managed. Most of the Coral Sea reefs are Australian Nature Reserves but are not actively managed. Major issues in the GBR region are: effects of terrestrial run-off on inner-shelf reefs; effects of fishing, and particularly of prawn trawling on shelf benthos; effects of concentrated tourism in some areas; a recent rapid decline in dugongs in the southern part of the GBR; and threats to GBR breeding turtles in neighbouring countries. Of great concep1 is the massive scale of coral mortality from repeated outbreak episodes of crown-of-thorns starfish (e.g. 17% of reefs in the 1979-92 episode) and from the unprecedented 1998 coral bleaching episode (affecting 87% of inner-reefs and 28% of offshore reefs). The dilemma facing management authorities is that many of the major issues are outside their control.

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