22 Nov 2017 - A new program aiming to help protect the Great Barrier Reef from climate change damage is launching today on Queensland’s Lady Elliot Island.
The project, developed over 10 years at a cost of $14 million, will designate Lady Elliot Island, located on the Southern Great Barrier Reef, as a climate change ‘ark,’ which will act as a refuge for threatened marine life.
Great Barrier Reef Foundation Managing Director Anna Marsden said that an expert project team will be brought in to work with the island’s Eco Resort team to develop a program aimed to boost the island’s “resilience” by providing a sustainable habitat for its many marine species.
Ms Marsden said the project includes piloting novel monitoring technologies such as acoustics, drones, under and above water automated vehicles and thermal imaging.
The program will also develop detailed resilience and habitat maps for the reef and climate change impact modelling, according to Ms Marsden.
“The project will be tailor-made to meet the unique needs of the island… On ground adaptation and restoration activities and carbon mitigation will also form part of the overall program,” she said.
“Lady Elliot Island is one of five Great Barrier Reef islands/island groups we’ve prioritised for urgent action.”
Ms Marsden said the decision was made by assessing “biodiversity, conservation value, and threat level.”
“By working to restore and protect these island refuges, we’re essentially creating a series of ‘arks’ to help our precious Reef wildlife and plants to survive in an increasingly challenging environment.”
She said that the five islands which will form a network of climate change refuges play a critical role in the life cycle of the various flora and fauna in the Great Barrier Reef’s ecosystem.
“Both global climate change and local threats are impacting Great Barrier Reef island,” she said.
“These impacts are only projected to increase into the future, which is why we have to act now to ensure the most critical climate refuges are maintained.”
Lady Elliot Island’s Eco Resort Managing Director Peter Gash said the island has the second highest diversity of breeding seabirds of any island on the reef, as well as being a “renowned haven” for many other endangered species.
“We’re excited to be able to take the initiatives that we and the island’s previous custodians started to the next level and introduce new ones to ensure that Lady Elliot Island remains a biodiversity bright spot for the Reef into the future,” he said.
The multi-million-dollar Reef Island Refuge Initiative is a partnership between the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service and other island-based businesses and communities, and science research agencies.
Queensland’s Environment Minister Steven Miles also announced $3 million in matched funding from the state Government.