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Impacts on Great Barrier Reef and Kakadu Wetlands

In: Social Issues

Submitted By Keelindaly
Words 2557
Pages 11
Ecosystem Case Study.

Assess contemporary management practices that have been applied to reduce these impacts.


Global warming —> Water temp —> Coral bleaching —> increased starfish
Pollution—> agricultural run off overfishing Industrialisation —> oil spills, shipping toursim STRATEGIES
- Traditional
Banning dredging and offshore dumping
Increasing funding for farmers to reduce run off through water quality- from budget. Budget increased by 25 million per annum for 4 years in oder to restore reef as of 1st July 2014.
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act
25 year plan.
Justification; why save the reef? tourist attraction
7th wonder of the word contributes 6 billion to Australian economy produces 63 000 jobs

The Great Barrier Reef is the longest coral reef structure in the world extending over 2300 km from papua new guinea on Queensland’s east coast. It renowned for it visibility from space considering it holds more than 2900 individual reefs and is home to over ‘6 300’ different species (wwf). Although this ecosystem is protected as a World Heritage site, it has still been significantly impacted by human activities, including pollution, mining and urban run off. Traditional management strategies have been a vast help over the past thousands of year but the severity of human impacts have dramatically increased in the past 50 years and contemporary strategies have been put into practise in attempt to reduce these.

While the Great Barrier Reef stands as a beautiful testament to the power of natural construction, in recent years there have emerged numerous threats to the existence of the reef that loom and make its future fairly uncertain which is mainly due to the influence of man. Global warming is caused by the increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere which confine solar radiation within the atmosphere of the earth. This has had a detrimental effect on this environment, influencing rising seas levels, ocean acidification and water temperatures which have caused dramatic occurrences of coral bleaching. Corals are given their vibrant colours as a result of the algae who inhabit them; the warmer waters kill off the algae which then leads to the coral losing its colouration. The deterioration of algae significantly impacts the death of creatures that use them as their primary source of food, which has a ripple effect of the food chain and renders the affected section of reef a veritable underwater ghost town. Scientists believe that the current abundance of Crown of Thorns starfish is due to the increase of algae from global warming. These creatures can have a catastrophic impact of the reef as they ‘literally’ sucks the life out of the coral and leave it completely destroyed. Agricultural activities have also had an enormous impact on the reef. Increased use of fertilisers and pesticides are causing vast issues for the reefs water quality as its destroying vulnerable species that are dependent on certain nutrients in the ecosystem as the chemicals within these products kill the natural balance of the ecosystem. Greenpeace have proven that both waste and chemical run off from agricultural activities contribute to 29% of the deteriorating impact of humans of the great barrier reef. Although Fishing has decreased in the past decade, overfishing on the reef is a serious issue for the survival of this Ecosystem. Its estimated that approximately 30 000 tonnes of fish and sea creatures are killed annually by commercial fishing vessels. Overfishing is having a devastating impact on the continuation of The great barrier reef as its damaging the natural food chain of this environment. Every year 2.2 million tourists visit the Great Barrier Reef and this increases by 10% annually. The impact tourism is having on the survival is greater than first thought. Their carelessness and unawareness of their actions including reef walkers and taking organisms from the reef is having a dramatic effect of the future of this ecosystem. The convenience and financial opportunities that the reef presents is causing the negligence of humans to increase. Mining and oil exploration has posed as a mass threat to this environment, with recorded cases killing up to 15 km2 of the reef. However the most serious cause of the reefs deterioration is the major oil spill and ship wrecks occurring in the past 50 years which due to carelessness. There has been more than 30 shipwrecks throughout the Great Barrier Reef and over 60 recorded cases of oil spillages from mass vessels, the worst case in1970 releasing 55 000 tonnes of crude oil. The reef experiences up yo 10 tonnes of minor oil spills weekly from the estimated 6000 ships passing through it annually which is having a devastating effect on the long time survival of this ecosystem. The balanced ecology of the Great Barrier Reef is one that is vulnerable to even the slightest human influence and is rapidly being destroyed by this.

Its impeccable that the Great Barrier Reef is preserved not only because of its beauty but it also due to its high economic value and the key role it plays in the global carbon cycle as well as the prevention of costal erosion. Coral reefs are home to more than 25% of all marine species so its important that we look after them which was recognised by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders around 50000 years ago. The marine environment is important to the cultural values and way of life of the local indigenous australians so in 1995 the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) established an Indigenous Cultural Liaison Unit to sustain the reef and maintain their traditional practices. Their Strategies are centred on stewardship and the conservation of resources for the future so there culture can continue. In respecting the environment their impact on the Great Barrier Reef was minimal; they used canoes to fish which floated above the reef and were fuelled by man not chemicals so the reef its self was not harmed. The population of aboriginals in ratio to the mass of food being produced by the reef made it part of a natural food chain for them to hunt. They strongly believed in only taking what was necessary which is ultimately their best management practise as their intentions focused on rejuvenating the reef not destroying it. However human impacts have developed beyond traditional preservation and contemporary practises have been implemented. The GBRMPA, state and federal government are responsible for the management of the reef, and have enforced numerous strategies to reduce human impacts and provide protection of this environment. The introduction of Zoning in the Great Barrier Reef has made a vast difference to the continuation of this ecosystem. By limiting access of tourist and poaching activities the reef is left to maintain itself to the best of its ability, this is evident through the recent increase of the ‘no go’ zones from 4.5% to 33% of the total Park. Zoning has had mixed success as its very difficult to enforce due to the the sheer size of the Reef. The Governement have also implemented all commercial fishing boats to have a satellite on them so the GBRMPA are able to track them if they enter prohibited areas. The addition of carbon tax is a signifiant management strategy in reducing the impact of global warming and therefore coral bleaching and the crown of thorn starfish. The main improvement of human impacts has been through the agricultural department, with farmers drastically reducing the use of pesticides in their crops and therefore significantly minimising chemical run off which is evident through the banana industry. The construction of artificial wetlands has moderately improved the survival of the reef as it removes the stress of nutrient loss and chemicals within the environment as the artificial wetlands ‘catch’ the sediments before it reaches the natural environment and destroys it. There is currently a new fishing management plan that underpins to reduce commercial catch from 4830 tonnes to 3061 and introducing stricter time periods, including 9-5 working days and closing the reef off during spawning seasons. The government has also used the power of education to enlighten people of the impact they are having in an attempt to encourage recycling and eco friendly sewerage systems. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act of 1975 has been amended on several occasions to prohibit mineral mining and oil drilling as well as establishing waste dumping regulations.The recent budget terms have increased the GBRMPA expenses by 25 million p.a. for the next four years as of the beginning of july in attempt to continue the ‘save the reef campaign’ which will significantly assist the above management strategies to continually work towards ecological sustainability for the Reefs Future. According to the ‘New Scientist’ the Great Barrier Reef will lose 95% of its living coral by 2050 so its vital these management strategies are obliged and enforced to maintain and develop this ecosystem.

The Great Barrier Reef is an internationally renowned biodiversity icon, however in recent years events and exercises like Industrialistaion and Global warming have deteriorated this environment. Government organisations and Conversation groups have formulated management strategies in an attempt to reduce or completely stop these impacts, but the enforcement of these practises has been inadequate and consequently the Great Barrier Reef will continue to degrade.

Assess the Human Impacts on the Kakadu Wetlands and the Traditional and contemporary management practices that have been applied to reduce these impacts.

Kakadu Wetlands is a place of enormous ecological and biological diversity, covering almost
20 000 square kilometres just outside Darwin, extending from the coast and estuaries in the north through floodplains, billabongs and lowlands to rocky ridges and stone country in the south. The ecosystem holds more than one-third of Australia's bird species and one-quarter of its freshwater and estuarine fish species which is why its vital this environment is protected for future generations. Over the past 50 or so years human impacts on Kakadu Wetlands have destroyed local habitats and vital food chains that Aboringial conserved for so long. However, as of the late 1970’s due to its World heritage listing, this ecosystem has had numerous organisations practising strategies to improve the surivial of this environment to become ecologically sustainable.

A human impact is the impression or damage caused by people to the biophysical environment. Over the last century Kakadu Wetlands has significantly degraded which is due to the influence of humans. The addition of european and asian species has destroyed natural habitats and killed off many native organisms. This is evident through introduction of the asian water buffalo which has resulted in the damage of fragile floodplains and wetlands. Their size, weight and hard hooves was unnatural for the environment and this vastly compacted the soil and destroyed multiple plant species causing significant amounts of erosion.Their habit of wallowing rodeos riverbanks and muddies the water making it unsuitable for many aquatic plants and animals. A weed is a plant that is not native. Invasive weeds reduce plant and animal diversity, changing burning regimes and alter the structure, function and species compositions of the natural ecosystem. The competition between weeds and native plants has significantly reduced the populations of native organisms which also then impacts other species feeding off the native flora as competition becomes more fierce. Tourism has also had a huge impact on the development of Kakadu wetlands. Tourism is responsible for the introduction of non-native seedlings from tyres and shoes, significant amounts of waste and sewerage, risk of intentional fires and the vast amount of land clearing undergoing to provide for tourist accommodation and activities. Uranium Mining is the most controversial of all the mining industry. Since the 1980’s the revenue from mining has been $3 billion. The impact of mining has been catastrophic on this ecosystem. Fundamental design mistakes were made when building the mine which contaminated the water quality of the wetlands and thus altered the natural balance of nutrients, destroying organisms that were reliant on that equilibrium. Global Warming has been proven to convert a few of the freshwater environments to salt water in Kakadu leading to extensive dieback of paperbark and freshwater grasses across the plains which many species rely on for survival. Thus its demonstrated humans are having a detrimental impact on the functioning and survival of the Kakadu wetlands.

Kakadu wetlands play an important role in maintaining the regions biodiversity. Globally there is a current trend of the loss of ecosystems and its essential that this environment does not become a part of it. Currently the Aboriginal Community play a major role in the management of Kakadu Wetlands, the indigenous are recognised as the traditional owners of this ecosystem as they have focused on ensuring that future generations are able to to exercise the same rights and understanding of their culture as the current community and to do so the survival of the land is vital. This can be seen through their fire management practises which involves patch burring to extensively maintain a diversity of habitat conditions for species with differing requirements. They knew from early on the land need to be able to withstand harsh conditions in order for its survival for the future. However human impacts have developed beyond traditional preservation and contemporary practises have been implemented. Kakadu was declared a world heritage site in 1981 and listed as a wetlands of international importance by the Ramsar Convention. This strategy aimed to conserve the wetlands and maintain the survival of what was remaining. The international significane gave the wetlands a higher respect from the community with 683 000 hectares being listed as go high importance. This ecosystem is protected by five treaties to ensure the wetlands are protected to an extremely high level including JAMBA and the Apia Convention which undermine the vitality of the wetlands. Another management strategy occurring to maintain this environment are the recent legislations have been implemented to prevent the development of mining and regular testing of the water quality that surrounds the mines occur regularly. The introduction of non native species including the water buffalo has been brought to the attention of the park since 1979 when the removal of the buffalo began. Since then only a few hundred remain of an estimated 20 000 herd, which has rejuvenated damaged areas drastically. To reduce tourism the park has restricted the amount of accommodation available and created large zoning of activities. The Promotion of ecotourism has significantly reduced human impacts including solar powered showers, recycling of sewerage as well banning certain fish species, i.e. Baramundi. The most recent management strategy being the 2007-2014 Management plan which target the community to join in and be involved in saving the Kakadu Wetlands which has been so far been quite successful in achieving its goals, including the rehabilitation of wetlands through the banning of agrochemicals.Therefore its demonstrated there has been a significant move towards creating an ecological sustainable ecosystem through managements practises, however in order to achieve this the Park still has a long way to go.

Kakadu Wetlands is recognised as a global treasure, World Heritage listed for both its environment and our living Aboriginal culture and containing over 5000 native species. It is vital that the community, government and conservation organisations come together to reduce human influences and create management practises that will create a sustainable future for this ecosystem.

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