Geoscience Reference
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Barrier Reef'. In this topic, a broad definition of the Great Barrier Reef is used,
one that encompasses the GBRWHA (including its islands) and the adjacent
areas of Torres Strait, Hervey Bay and Moreton Bay, since some important
historical changes occurred in each of those parts of the ecosystem.
Conceptions of the Great Barrier Reef held by Indigenous Australians can
differ significantly from those of non-Indigenous Australians. Many Indigenous
Australians regard the Great Barrier Reef as part of traditional 'sea country';
some also regard it as a sacred place whose importance is reflected in creation
stories. Some marine animals found in the Great Barrier Reef, including
dugongs and marine turtles, have formed a vital part of the social practices and
cultural identities of some coastal Indigenous Australian communities. Given
the significance of this ecosystem for biodiversity conservation, human use
of the GBRWHA now raises important questions about self-determination,
participation and co-management of coastal and marine resources by Indigenous
Australians. Recently, scholars using postcolonial approaches (amongst others)
have produced new interpretations of colonisation in Australia, developed better
narratives of contact and resistance, and highlighted the need for more inclusive
accounts of environmental history, particularly for settler societies. Their insights
suggest that accounts of the environmental history of the Great Barrier Reef that
exclude Indigenous Australian perspectives are, at best, partial and incomplete
(Loos, 1982; Smyth, 1994; Jacobs, 1996; Reynolds, 2003).
However the Great Barrier Reef is defined, the ecosystem does not exist in
isolation: it is closely interconnected with its adjacent environments. In particular,
the GBRWHA is strongly influenced by its sources of freshwater, sediments and
nutrients, especially the 35 drainage basins of eastern Queensland that form
the Great Barrier Reef Catchment Area (GBRCA) (Figure 1.2) . The GBRCA
includes around 25 per cent of the land area of Queensland, and runoff from
that area represents a major input to the GBRWHA. Therefore, the GBRWHA
and the GBRCA form an interconnected unit: environmental changes in the
GBRWHA may be closely related to both human activities and environmental
changes in the GBRCA (Furnas, 2003). Significant land uses in the GBRCA
include rangeland cattle grazing, forestry, sugar cane farming, cultivation of
bananas and other tropical fruits, aquaculture and mining. In addition, rapid
urban development has occurred in parts of coastal Queensland, and over one
million people now live in the GBRCA. Economic development in coastal
Queensland has also been significant, including the growth of the commercial
fishing, shipping and tourism industries in the GBRWHA, with tourism now
attracting around two million visitors per year. The cumulative effects of all of
those activities - in both the GBRCA and the GBRWHA - have prompted
concerns about the extent to which they have contributed to the large-scale
degradation of the Great Barrier Reef, particularly its nearshore habitats.
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