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The challenge

A global icon

The Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is a global icon and one of the best managed and researched coral reefs in the world, home to a wealth of marine biodiversity unmatched anywhere in the world.

However, the GBR is becoming threatened, its complex and delicately balanced ecosystem is being challenged from human activities both locally on the reef, regionally along its coastline, and globally.

Deteriorating water quality, rising water temperatures due to climate change and increasing ocean acidification as well as major predators of corals, Crown-of-thorns starfish (CoTS), have all contributed to dramatic losses in coral cover and habitat on the Reef.

Our response

Recovery and adaptation

In 2018, the Federal Government announced close to a $60 million package of measures aimed at improving the resilience of the Great Barrier Reef.

Australia’s iconic Great Barrier Reef is the largest living structure on Earth and one of the seven natural wonders of the world. ©  Matt Curnock

This package of measures included a $6 million concept feasibility phase, led by the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) with CSIRO and other partners, to develop a new Reef Restoration and Adaptation Program (RRAP). This program will assess and deploy existing and novel technologies to assist recovery, repair and build resilience of the Reef.

The overall Government funding will also ramp-up actions that will help the Reef right now such as $10.4 million for an all-out assault on crown-of-thorns starfish, $36.6 million to improve the quality of water entering the Reef and a $4.9 million boost to put more field officers on the water, improve compliance and provide early warning of further bleaching.

The results

Working with partners on RRAP

The $6 million design phase of the RRAP is for the initial planning and feasibility assessment phase of a 10-year program to develop new technologies to assist reef recovery and adaptation. Our scientists and partners already have experience creating heat tolerant corals and eco-engineering approaches to modify ambient conditions of reefs.

The RRAP is being undertaken by a partnership of Australian universities, research agencies, park managers and charities. This includes CSIRO, AIMS, Great Barrier Reef Foundation, James Cook University, University of Queensland, Queensland University of Technology, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and researchers from many other organisations.

We have a long history of working with partners in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and its adjacent catchments, spanning the full continuum from inland to outer reef. The RRAP takes these historical collaborations to a new level of partnership, involving international and national partners.

Our scientists will lead several consortium teams tasked with designing key research themes underpinning the RRAP. This includes modelling and social research themes.

We will use our deep domain knowledge and a wide range of modelling platforms such as eReefs, CONNIE and Atlantis in analysing the feasibility of a suite of restoration strategies for a range of climate change scenarios.

Determining the best approaches to engaging key Reef stakeholders in the design phase as well as the program itself once it commences is a focus of the social research theme.

Over the next decade the Australian and Queensland governments will spend some $2 billion on Reef protection including initiatives like the Reef 2050 Plan and reef restoration program.

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