Conservation and Sustainable Use of the Biosphere - WBGU

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Conservation and Sustainable Use of the Biosphere - WBGU

202 E Diversity of landscapes and ecosystems

Box E 3.9-3

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, Australia

The Great Barrier Reef extends along a 2,300km-long

coastline and is the largest continuous coral reef in the

world. It is made up of individual reefs, islands and sandbanks

and provides a habitat for around 400 coral species

and 1,500 fish species. The main use of this region, recognized

as World Heritage in 1981, is tourism with a large

number of different leisure and sport activities. Every year,

around US$1 thousand million is earned. Raw material

depletion, fishing and shipping are other, but less important,

economic activities in this area.

Two factors are currently threatening this unique ecosystem:

• Disruptions from tourist activities, such as diving, shell

collecting, boat trips in sensitive areas.

• The tremendous increase of starfishes in some places,

which is probably linked to pollution and eutrophication

and which destroys the corals.

In 1975 the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park was founded

with the aim of protecting the marine and coastal ecosystems

and promoting the appropriate use of the resources in

this area. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority is

responsible for the management of this region. The government

authority with close contacts to the Environment Ministry

has built up many contacts to local authorities, governments

and other interest groups via an agreement with the

Federal State of Queensland.The authority’s main task is to

bring together and spread information and to carry out

studies and projects on ecosystem management. A committee

for the regular exchange of information between the

Park administration and other institutions, experts and citizens

was set up for the involvement of important groups.

The main conflicts in this region were oil pumping in the

1960s and lime extraction in the coral reefs. Australia has

clearly decided on protection here: the country is prepared

to do without these uses in favour of conserving this unique

reef.

The Marine Park Authority uses two important instruments

to avoid conflicts: on the one hand a seven-stage system

of zoning lays down precisely what activities in which

areas are allowed, not allowed or allowed only with a special

licence. On the other hand, the Authority is in regular

dialogue with companies who (want to) use the

reef – whether for the removal of raw materials, fishing or

tourism. These users then voluntarily undertake to adhere

to certain rules. For example, sport anglers may not fish in

fish breeding areas and they supervise each other in adhering

to this prohibition; tough sanctions await anyone who

does not stick to these rules. Ships carrying mineral oil and

travelling through parts of the reef are now accompanied by

specially trained pilots who guide the ships through the

highly sensitive areas.

The example shows that effective instruments can be

developed as a result of the cooperation of a national

authority with local authorities and interest groups that do

justice to the different protection and usage requirements.

Existing institutional capacities have been used and supplemented

by the national authority. The general appreciation

of the ecosystem by all involved as well as the knowledge

that the state national park authority can introduce more

stringent restrictions on use at any time ensure that there is

high acceptance and effectiveness for voluntary commitments.

also be identified at regional level. This concept can

be very well combined with the above-mentioned

approach for bioregional management: designating

areas for placing under protection or restriction on

use defines ‘sustainability limits’ which must not be

exceeded.

In this respect, the term ‘bioregional management’

could suggest that biosphere conservation should be

accorded priority over economic biosphere use from

the outset.This is not the case: in a successful concept

all three aspects of sustainability must always be

regarded as integrated. Bioregional management

should therefore create a balance between the interest

in intensive land use and the protection interest

without one of the two interests being granted a priori

priority over the region as a whole. No user

should be prescribed a use plan right down to the

individual field. Only a network of ecosystems is

identified, each of which is of major important for

biosphere conservation.

The zoning concept provides a differentiated

foundation for this (Section E 3.9.2). There will be

type ‘N’ areas in every region (Section E 3.3.2) in

which important ecosystem services are performed,

which are undervalued when viewed from a purely

market point of view, and would be lost if used for

economic purposes – conversion and subsequent

intensive land use – (eg core zones of protected areas

as a habitat for endangered species, high-slope

forests without economic use because of their importance

for erosion prevention, water protection

areas). These protected areas are of regional importance

and can also be designated at this level. Added

to these are protected areas of supraregional or

global importance, such as areas of natural heritage

or areas of importance to the global protected areas

system (Section E 3.3.2).These are agreed at national

or global level, but also have a binding nature for the

region concerned. The regions can vary greatly with

respect to their share of the three landscape-use

types. This means that this concept is ultimately a

geographical implementation of the guard rail concept

for the regional integration of conservation and

use of the biosphere: after a network of protected

and buffer areas has been designated, there remains

some ‘leeway’ within which economic search

processes can run their course – while adhering to the

guidelines for intensive sustainable use (Section

E 3.3.4) – and a market-oriented use is possible and

desired, eg with respect to the goal of safeguarding

adequate supply of food.

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