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How The Australian Great Barrier Reef Succeeds At Preservation And Sustainable Use And How It Applies To A Worldwide Problem

3377 words - 14 pages

How the Australian Great Barrier Reef Succeeds at Preservation and Sustainable Use and How it Applies to a Worldwide Problem

Coral bleaching is a somewhat recent phenomenon that has prompted many communities and countries around the world to enact policies and legislation that deal with their dying coral reefs. In early 1998, a mass coral bleaching event took place on the Australian Great Barrier Reef, and broad scale aerial surveys confirmed that most of the inland reefs had experienced at least some bleaching (Lally 1999). The following analysis of the Great Barrier Reef will illustrate that a successful policy process must incorporate the people who live, work, and depend on the fragile environment into the decision-making about preservation policies, regardless of the method or policy tool chosen to do so. Effective management and policy tools must also carefully weigh both extractive and non-extractive uses - to not only preserve, but also sustain, the use of the coral reef ecosystem.

First, I will give some background information about why the Australian Reef is of importance and why dying reefs are a worldwide problem. I will then further explain the scientific background of what coral reefs are, what coral bleaching is, and the human activities and other factors that cause it. Second, I will further explain the issues involved with the policy process of preserving coral reefs, and which is the priority that stands above the rest. Third, I will explain who the actors are and what their roles are in the policy process. Fourth, I will define the instruments that are used to guide the policy process. Lastly, I will explain the lessons, outcomes and alternatives that exist in the policy process of preserving coral reefs.


Because a coral community represents one of the most diverse natural resources in the world, coral reefs often are referred to as the "rainforests of the oceans." (Dustan 1999). Coral reefs not only protect coastlines and beaches from wave damage and erosion, but also are the basis for the fishing and tourism industries. Dying reefs is a worldwide problem, and evidence shows that 10% of the entire world’s coral has died, and 60% will die by 2020 if existing conditions continue (NOAA 2000). The reason that the Australian Great Barrier Reef is so important is because not only is it the largest barrier reef in the world, but it is also one of the most evolved models of how to best manage and protect the world’s largest reef system (Ornitz 1996). It extends for 2,340 kilometers (km), covers 345,000 square km and contains 2,900 reefs, 300 coral cays and 600 continental islands (White 1999). Historically, it has been ahead of the rest of the world in terms of recognizing and addressing problems associated with reef degradation.

What are coral reefs?

Corals are tiny immobile animals that live in colonies, where each cluster is called a polyp. Different species build structures of various sizes and...

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