Feature: Building a framework for the world’s largest living structure

Aerial view of Great Barrier Reef.

IMAGE: The Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. Image: Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

Establishing an integrated monitoring framework for the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area (GBRWHA) presented a significant knowledge brokering challenge amid tight timeframes set to meet processes under the Environment Protection Biodiversity Act 1999. Developing a more strategic approach to reef monitoring involved collating a wealth of information on management needs and 65 existing monitoring programs, and harmonising the needs and views of diverse specialists and stakeholders in the complex setting of adaptive management.

Policy makers, scientists, and data and natural resource managers helped to define and prioritise steps towards integrating management and monitoring approaches, and distilled this into practical guidance applicable in any coastal or marine region. The guidance was subsequently applied to the GBRWHA to develop an integrated monitoring framework tailored for GBR managers. This provided the basis for further collaborative efforts to build the monitoring program (see story Shaping integrated monitoring for the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area).

Stakeholder commitment to participation has been vital to successful knowledge brokering in this project and has involved developing a shared language and logic for integrating monitoring, including the identification of key management and science inputs, essential monitoring functions and options for engaging experts and stakeholders.

The monitoring framework contributed to the strategic assessment of the World Heritage Area in 2014 and is guiding development of a reef-wide integrated monitoring and reporting program to review the success of the Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan (draft released for public comment in September 2014). It will build on and coordinate existing monitoring and reporting activities and will be linked to the outcomes and targets identified in the plan.