The role the Great Barrier Reef plays in resident wellbeing and implications for its management

Abstract

Improvements in human wellbeing are dependent on improving ecosystems. Such considerations are particularly pertinent for regions of high ecological, but also social and cultural importance that are facing rapid change. One such region is the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). Although the GBR has world heritage status for its ‘outstanding universal value’, little is known about resident perceptions of its values. We surveyed 1545 residents, finding that absence of visible rubbish; healthy reef fish, coral cover, and mangroves; and iconic marine species, are considered to be more important to quality of life than the jobs and incomes associated with industry (most respondents were dissatisfied with the benefits they received from industry). Highly educated females placed more importance on environmental non-use values than other respondents; less educated males and those employed in mining found non-market use-values relatively more important. Environmental non-use values emerged as the most important management priority for all.

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  1. 1.

    The main aim of the project was to improve understanding of the relationship between the socioeconomic system and the GBRWHA, specifically, to improve understanding of resident views about the relative ‘value’ of key ecosystem services that are provided by the GBRWHA. Thus, the core sections of resident questionnaire included questions about: (1) The socio-demographic background of respondents; (2) Residents’ activities and frequency of activities within the GBRWHA; (3) The importance of various values related to the GBRWHA to overall wellbeing and quality of life and satisfaction with the current state of these values; (4) Perceptions about the way in which overall quality of life would be affected by changes in various environmental and market factors; and (5) Willingness to pay (WTP) for improvements in various environmental attributes of the GBRWHA. Please refer to Stoeckl et al. (2013) for more details on the survey instrument and its development.

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Acknowledgments

This study was funded by the Tropical Ecosystems Hub, part of the Australian Government’s Commonwealth National Environmental Research Program. The NERP TE Hub is administered in North Queensland by the Reef and Rainforest Research Centre Limited (RRRC). The NERP Tropical Ecosystem Hub addresses issues of concern for the management, conservation and sustainable use of the World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef (GBR) and its catchments, tropical rainforests including the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area (WTWHA), and the terrestrial and marine assets underpinning resilient communities in the Torres Strait, through the generation and transfer of world-class research and shared knowledge. We wish to thank Ms Hana Sakata, Mr Leon Appo, and others for their help with data collection and entry. We also wish to thank the focus group participants, interviewees, and hundreds of anonymous householders who took the time to complete our survey: without their contribution this study would not be possible.

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Correspondence to Natalie Stoeckl.

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Larson, S., Stoeckl, N., Farr, M. et al. The role the Great Barrier Reef plays in resident wellbeing and implications for its management. AMBIO 44, 166–177 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13280-014-0554-3

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Keywords

  • Australia
  • GBRWHA
  • IDS
  • Perceptions
  • Quality of life
  • Values