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mortality of the embryos. Hence, at this remote cay, the effects of two historical
human activities (quarrying and guano mining) continue to interact with the
biology and ecology of a long-lived, slow-reproducing, vulnerable marine species
- one that has also sustained a wide range of other human impacts, including
commercial fishing - in the context of ongoing, critical changes in its nesting
This example illustrates the fact that historical impacts on environments and
ecosystems such as the Great Barrier Reef do not necessarily end when the original
human activity ceases; they may continue to influence subsequent environmental
changes, perhaps irrevocably. Overall, the unprecedented historical impacts on,
and exploitation of, the Great Barrier Reef reconstructed in this topic must have
increased the vulnerability of its reefs, islands and marine wildlife to a range of
other stresses. In the context of growing concerns about the future of the Great
Barrier Reef - and the urgent need to increase its resilience to natural and human
pressures, including the effects of climate change and ocean acidification - the
ecosystem now requires an unprecedented level of research, monitoring and
effective protection if it is to adapt to the changes that lie ahead.
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