There are 14 coastal ecosystems that are important to the function of the Reef: coral reefs, lagoon floors, islands, open water, seagrass, coastline, estuaries, freshwater wetlands, forested floodplains, health and shrublands, grass and sedgelands, woodlands, forests, and rainforests. Some remain in their natural state while others have been modified through changes in land use.
These coastal ecosystems provide important links between land, freshwater and marine environments, and some are feeding and breeding grounds for marine species. Any changes to coastal ecosystems or habitat loss can lead to a range of adverse impacts on the long-term health and resilience of the Reef and the industries they support and flow-on effects for human well-being.
Coastal development was identified as a threat to coastal ecosystems in the 2009 and 2014 Outlook reports. In response to this, a report was produced to Inform the Outlook for Great Barrier Reef coastal ecosystems.
- The Authority’s position in response to the issue is:
- Healthy coastal ecosystems are critical for the long-term health of the Reef. The loss of ecosystem function from coastal development is one of the major threats to the Great Barrier Reef. An Integrated whole-of-catchment approach is needed to protect and restore the ecological functioning of coastal ecosystems.
Coastal ecosystems deliver a range of ecological services that support the Reef, including water distribution, food and habitat, and nutrient and chemical cycling.
For example, many reef species use the catchment for some of their life cycle. Adult mangrove jacks live in the Reef, but as larvae they migrate through freshwater rivers and streams.
Barramundi also use floodplain habitats for parts of their life history.
Any changes to coastal ecosystems, including coastal development and poor water quality can affect the health, survival, growth and breeding of many species that live in the Great Barrier Reef.
Changes in rainfall, storm frequency and intensity, increasing temperatures, rising sea levels, ocean acidification and other impacts associated with climate change represent significant additional pressures on coastal ecosystems.
Protecting and restoring the function of coastal ecosystems is critical to the health of the Reef. The Authority supports management actions based on an integrated whole-of-system approach that protect remaining coastal ecosystems and assist in restoring their ecological function.
Our strategies can be found in the Authority’s position statement for coastal ecosystems.