Australian Bureau of Statistics
4628.0.55.001 - Completing the Picture - Environmental Accounting in Practice, May 2012
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 10/05/2012 Final
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CHAPTER 5-MANAGING THE GREAT BARRIER REEF REGION
BIODIVERSITY AND ECOSYSTEMS
Biodiversity is the variability among living things and the ecosystems they inhabit, and is composed of three levels: genes, species, and ecosystems(footnote 2) . Ecosystems consist of areas which contain dynamic complexes of biotic communities and their non-living environment interacting as a functional unit to provide environmental structures, processes and functions(footnote 3) . Australia's biodiversity contains many plants and animals found nowhere else on Earth.
Source: Land Account: Great Barrier Reef Region, Experimental Estimates (ABS cat. no. 4609.0.55.001).
GREAT BARRIER REEF BACKGROUND
The Great Barrier Reef is a globally significant marine ecosystem, and is listed on the register of World Heritage sites(footnote 4) . It is the world's most extensive stretch of coral reef and is one of the richest in terms of faunal diversity, with over 450 species of hard corals, about 150 species of soft corals and sea pens, about 40 species of sea anemones, over 100 species of jellyfish, over 5 species of marine spider, more than 20 species of insects, 1,625 fish species (including 1,400 coral reef species), 133 species of sharks and rays, 6 species of threatened marine turtles, over 30 species of marine mammals, over 3,000 species of molluscs, about 500 species of worms, around 1300 species of crustaceans, 630 species of echinoderms, 14 breeding species of sea snake, and 215 species of birds(footnote 5) . The Great Barrier Reef provides habitat for a range of endangered and iconic species including major feeding grounds for the endangered dugong, nesting grounds for two endangered marine turtles, and is an important breeding ground for whales. The Great Barrier Reef consists of about 2,900 individual reefs; about 600 continental islands, and 300 coral and sand cays. It covers about 345,950 square kilometres, and the 28 river catchments that drain into the sea near the Great Barrier Reef cover over 38 million hectares. In 2006 there were just over one million people living in the Great Barrier Reef catchment area(footnote 6) . There are five Natural Resource Management areas (NRMs) in the Great Barrier Reef region: Wet Tropics, Burdekin, Mackay Whitsunday, Fitzroy and Burnett Mary.
The Australian Government established the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) in order to better manage the Great Barrier Reef and to meet environmental, economic and social objectives. Threats to the condition or health of the reef include climate change, declining water quality (from catchment run off), and the loss of coastal habitats (from coastal development and fishing impacts). Many of the threats are the result of actions beyond the boundaries of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (GBRMP). The GBRMP is a multiple use area which supports a range of communities and industries (such as tourism, fishing, and shipping), and a zoning plan covers the marine park and separates conflicting uses(footnote 7) .
LINKING GREAT BARRIER REEF MANAGEMENT AND POLICY TO ENVIRONMENTAL ACCOUNTS
The GBRMP Act (1975) provides for the establishment, control, care and development of the GBRMP, and the Act confers responsibility for the management of the marine park to the GBRMPA(footnote 8) . In brief, the relevant objectives of GBRMP Act are: to provide for the long term protection and conservation of the environment; biodiversity and heritage values of the Great Barrier Reef region; to allow ecologically sustainable use of Great Barrier Reef region for various purposes; to encourage engagement in the protection and management of the Great Barrier Reef region; and, to assist in meeting Australia's international responsibilities in relation to the environment and protection of world heritage(footnote 9) .
More specifically, the GBRMPA Corporate Plan (2011-2014) provides three objectives for management guidance, which are as follows:
The following sections describe the environmental-economic accounts, including the land and biodiversity accounts that could be used in relation to each of these objectives. Material is drawn from the existing Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Great Barrier Reef region land account as well as additional experimental environmental accounts and other information assembled from relevant government and non-government agencies.
Land is an important asset and represents a large proportion of the value (36%) of Australia's economic assets. Practically all economic activities involve the use of land. At 30 June 2011, Australia's land was valued at $3,785 billion(footnote 10) . The land in the Great Barrier Reef region was valued at $71.9 billion at 30 June 2010(footnote 11) . The value of land depends on many factors, including location (e.g. proximity to major population centres; transport corridors; water sources; and the beach), land cover and land use.
The use and management of the land in the Great Barrier Reef region catchment has a significant impact on the condition of the Great Barrier Reef. For example, the use of land for agriculture will usually result in higher levels of sediment, nitrogen and phosphorous being carried by rivers to the Great Barrier Reef than if the land had been used for other purposes.
Land cover and land use accounts, linked to economic activity (in this case agriculture), can be used to monitor areas and activities that may impact on the reef as well as the economic cost and impact of constraining these activities.
Since human settlement of Australia significant changes to land cover have occurred, but land cover has not changed significantly in the last ten years. However, in coastal areas where the majority (85%) of people in Australia live(footnote 12) the impact of land cover or land use changes may have significant impacts at a local and regional level.
An experimental land cover account was prepared by the ABS to assess what changes in land cover were occurring in the Great Barrier Reef, including the conversion of native vegetation to urban area. Forest extent dropped by 13% to 14.6 million hectares during the 10 year period ending 2008 (Figure 5.2). Pre-1750, 18.0 million hectares of eucalypt woodlands existed in the Great Barrier Reef region while in 2006 eucalypt woodlands covered 10.6 million hectares. Most of the forest has been converted to cleared, non-native vegetation and buildings which covered 14.3 million hectares or 37% of the Great Barrier Reef region in 2008(footnote 13) .
Land use is the activity that occurs on land, for example agriculture, forestry, mining and or residential. This differs from land cover, which is the physical surface of the earth, rather than the activity on the land. Often there is a relationship between land cover and land use, such as the case with agricultural crops, but this is not always so - for example, a forest can have multiple uses, such as being used to produce timber, used for conservation, or a combination of both. National parks and other reserve types are not representative of all land cover types, hence the cross classification of land use and land cover. As can be seen in Figure 5.3, the industry sector occupies the greatest area of land in the Great Barrier Reef region. The Burdekin and Fitzroy NRMs have the largest areas of land devoted to industry compared to the other NRMs in the Great Barrier Reef region.
AGRICULTURAL LAND MANAGEMENT
Agricultural land management refers to the various agricultural practices undertaken on the land. In the ABS 2008-09 Land Management Practices in the Great Barrier Reef Catchments(footnote 14) , information was collected on practices specific to particular agricultural activities. These included soil testing for nutrients, fertiliser use, chemical use (including weed, pest and disease control), riparian management, surface water management and irrigation water management. These practices affect the condition of the terrestrial and marine ecosystems. Figure 5.4 shows the reported land management practices within the NRM areas in the Great Barrier Reef region. The Wet Tropics NRM had the largest number of holdings growing sugar cane in 2008-09; the Burnett Mary NRM had the largest number of holdings engaged in horticulture and keeping beef cattle; and the Fitzroy NRM had the largest number of holdings that prepared land for broadacre crops and/or cotton. Specific land management practices which give more insight into the effect of the different agricultural pursuits on the environment are then given as percentages, such as for holdings which apply chemicals, which the Mackay Whitsunday NRM (at 81.6%) had the highest proportion of holdings for (out of the Great Barrier Reef region NRMs).
Water is a valuable resource for use in agriculture, other industries and by households. The Agriculture, forestry and fishing industries in Australia, for example, generated $28,764 million in gross value added while consuming 7,187GL of water in 2009-10(footnote 15) . The Gross Value of Agricultural Production in the Great Barrier Reef region in 2009-10 was $4,480.61 million, and $1,999.76 million of this was irrigated agricultural production using 1,185.2 GL of water(footnote 16) . The Burdekin NRM had the highest agricultural water use in the Great Barrier Reef region, and the Wet Tropics NRM had the highest household water use in the Great Barrier Reef region. This possibly reflects the differences of attributes between NRMs such as the size of the NRMs (with the Burdekin being one of the largest NRMs in the Great Barrier Reef region(footnote 17) ), the predominant land use in each NRM, the difference in population between the NRMs, and the difference in annual rainfall.
Human activities in the river catchments that drain into the Great Barrier Reef lagoon have a significant impact on the water quality of the region. For example, increases in urbanisation, infrastructure and industrial activities such as agriculture, mining and tourism, are all factors that impact on the water quality that flow to the Great Barrier Reef.
Environmental accounts can link changes in the land use and land cover of the Great Barrier Reef catchments to the water quality of the Great Barrier Reef, and provide a tool to assist in the management of the Great Barrier Reef catchments. For example, in the Great Barrier Reef land account(footnote 18) , it can be seen that agriculture is by far the largest industry (in terms of area) being undertaken in the Great Barrier Reef catchments. Likewise, with the use of the vegetation cover change data (Figure 5.2), it can also be seen that there has been an associated reduction of native (forest) vegetation and an increase in agricultural activity occurring in the Great Barrier Reef catchments.
The emissions or pollutants of particular concern in the Great Barrier Reef lagoon are suspended nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorous), pesticides and herbicides. These pollutants have been shown to harm the reef ecosystem and have been attributed to diffuse agricultural land uses such as grazing and growing sugarcane(footnote 19) . Recent government and industry programs have aimed to increase the use of land management practices in the Great Barrier Reef catchment to practices that demonstrate improved water quality. Figure 5.4 shows the land management practices which minimise pollutant loads, and shows that these practices are increasingly being adopted in the Great Barrier Reef catchments.
By combining data on land use, land cover, and land management with a variety of hydrological and other information, estimates of the pollutant emissions to water can be made. Such data can be presented in the form of an account, enabling the links between economic activities and the condition and use of natural resources to be linked. Figure 5.6 is an example of a regional (NRM level) water emission table.
THE VALUE OF THE GREAT BARRIER REEF
Estimating value of environmental assets can be problematic and is discussed in some detail in Chapter 4.
In the case of the Great Barrier Reef, while it has significant World Heritage and conservation values, it also contributes significantly to the Australian economy, supporting employment in industries including tourism, fisheries, transport and mining. The value of the fish and mineral resources that are or could be extracted from the Great Barrier Reef could form the basis for an estimate of the value of these natural resources using the net present value techniques described in the SEEA Central Framework.
Estimating the value of other aspects of the Great Barrier Reef pose some challenges but by estimating the contribution of tourism based on the Reef it may be possible to make an approximation of the value that can be attributed to the cultural and recreational services it provides to tourists. Such a value would be based on the economic transactions in the consumption and production of the goods and services. Internationally agreed methodologies for these are still to be developed and are the subject of research in the development of the SEEA Experimental Ecosystem Accounts(footnote 20) ,(footnote 21) .
While a value for the Great Barrier Reef itself has not been established, the contribution of tourism to the regional, state or national economies can be estimated using a tourism satellite account. The ABS produces a Tourism Satellite Account for Australia(footnote 22) but not for particular states or regions, such as the Great Barrier Reef. Tourism satellite accounts provide more detail than simple tourism statistics (i.e. number of visitors, length of stay etc.) and quantify the monetary value of tourism to the economy (e.g. contribution to gross domestic product).
Tourism satellite accounts are generally produced worldwide by national statistical agencies at a national level using internationally recognised standards. These standards are based on the System of National Accounts (SNA), and utilise classifications, concepts and definitions compatible with the existing SNA and SEEA. In particular, supply-use tables are used to align tourists' consumption of goods and services with the industries which produce those goods and services. Tourism Research Australia uses the national methodological framework to produce estimates of the contribution to the economies of each of the Australian states and territories. While the GBRMPA has done so far, the Great Barrier Reef region.
Figure 5.7 presents a sample of the latest tourism data available for Australia, Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef region. It should be noted that while the concept of gross valued added is the same in each report, they have been produced by different organisations and for different reference periods and as such need to be used and compared with caution.
A biodiversity asset account aims to measure the amount and condition of the biodiversity for a specified region, in order to monitor and explain changes in biodiversity over time. The biodiversity accounts presented here use data provided by the Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management, and presents species under the main Linnaean groupings. The biodiversity accounts presented in the Appendix for Australia use the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) threat categories.
Figure 5.8 outlines the species status at a point in time (2000) for the Burdekin NRM, one of the Great Barrier Reef regions. It distinguishes species which occur in this particular NRM by whether they have been introduced, if they are native, if they are rare or endangered, and if they are protected. This table shows that most of the species in the Burdekin NRM are protected, native species. A table for a second point in time, for example one year later, could be combined with other information to create a biodiversity asset account for the region. This information is available for the Great Barrier Reef NRM regions for 2000 and 2011 (Figure 8.5), and data from the IUCN is available for Australia as a whole (refer to Appendix for current Australian species status and a biodiversity asset account). Species status tables can be constructed for all of the Great Barrier Reef NRMs.
Figure 5.9 outlines a biodiversity asset account for the Burdekin NRM, and shows that there has been an overall increase in species in every category between 2000 and 2011. This table covers additions to the opening stock of categories, such as species being reclassified from other categories, the discovery of new species or re-discoveries of species thought to be extinct, or when a species is reclassified and split into two species. It also covers the reductions to the opening stock categories, such as species being reclassified from other categories (including extinctions), and, from a taxonomic perspective, merged into another existing species. Distinguishing human-induced changes from natural ones within the table is the aim, but it is not clear if the data currently available allow this. Additionally, species in the table could be grouped in a number of different ways, such as whether the species are terrestrial or marine.
GREAT BARRIER REEF POLICY LINKS TO ENVIRONMENTAL ACCOUNTS
This chapter has provided an overview of the environmental accounts that could be used to inform policy for the Great Barrier Reef. These accounts are based around the central themes of land use, land cover, water, agricultural management, emissions, tourism, and biodiversity. Together these accounts have the potential to assist the agencies involved in managing the Great Barrier Reef region achieve their objectives. These accounts can be useful tools for monitoring, analysis, measuring, and informing policy objectives.
More specifically, the data provided in these accounts can assist in identifying and addressing the key risks that might affect the outlook for the Great Barrier Reef. This includes the provision of essential data required to support the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority developing responses to climate change. The collection of data based on the themes of land use and land cover, water, agricultural management, emissions, tourism and biodiversity mean that the data can also significantly contribute towards the protection of the coastal ecosystems that support the Great Barrier Reef. As an ecosystem-based set of accounts, they will better enable emerging risks to be addressed, and help assist with the maintenance of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park as a World Heritage site.
BIODIVERSITY IN THE NATIONAL ACCOUNTS
The Australian System of National Accounts (ASNA) follows the international standards set out in the 2008 System of National Accounts (2008 SNA). The main focus of the SNA is to measure economic stocks and flows which form the domestic economy. There are some components of biodiversity which are already in scope of the SNA:
While these are in scope of the SNA not all of the expenditures are explicitly recognised or separately identified. For example, the value of pollination by bees is not explicitly recognised but part of this value is captured in the value of agricultural production. Similarly the value of some natural assets, like the Great Barrier Reef, is at least partly captured by the businesses that service the visitors to these places.
Some of the values of biodiversity, and of ecosystems services more generally, are embedded in the price of land in the National Balance Sheet. It may therefore be possible to separate out the value of different assets, including biodiversity, contained by the land.
Australia's Biodiversity Conservation Strategy 2010-30(footnote 23) recognises that national biodiversity accounting has an important role in demonstrating the extent and condition of biodiversity in Australia. Such accounts would support public policy and evaluation and ensure that the value of biodiversity is realistically reflected alongside Australia's national economic and social indicators.1 Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), Commonwealth of Australia. 2011. Corporate Plan 2011–2014. <back
2 International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). 2012. About Biodiversity. <back
3 System of Environmental–Economic Accounting (SEEA). 2012. Committee of Experts on Environmental Economic Accounting, Statistics Division/Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations – SEEA Central Framework.<back
4 United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). 2012. UNESCO World Heritage List – The Great Barrier Reef. <back
5 Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), Commonwealth of Australia. 2012 (a). About the Reef – Animals. <back
6 Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), Commonwealth of Australia. 2011. ABS Land Account: Great Barrier Reef Region, Experimental Estimates, 2011, (cat. no. 4609.0.55.001). <back
7 Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), Commonwealth of Australia. 2012 (b). Managing multiple uses. <back
8 Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), Commonwealth of Australia. 2011. Corporate Plan 2011–2014. <back
9 Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), Commonwealth of Australia. 2011. Corporate Plan 2011–2014. <back
10 Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), Commonwealth of Australia. 2011. ABS Australian System of National Accounts 2010–11, (cat. no. 5204.0). <back
11 Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), Commonwealth of Australia. 2011. ABS Land Account: Great Barrier Reef Region, Experimental Estimates, 2011, (cat. no. 4609.0.55.001). <back
12 Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), Commonwealth of Australia. 2001. ABS Census of Population and Housing: Population Growth and Distribution, Australia, 2001, (cat. no. 2035.0). <back
13 ABS, Land Account: Great Barrier Reef Region, Experimental Estimates, 2011, (cat. no. 4609.0.55.001). <back
14 Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), Commonwealth of Australia. 2009. ABS Land Management Practices in the Great Barrier Reef Catchments, Final, 2008–09, (cat. no. 4619.0.55.001). <back
15 Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), Commonwealth of Australia. 2010. ABS Water Accounts, Australia, 2009–10, (cat. no. 4610.0). <back
16 Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), Commonwealth of Australia. 2009. ABS Experimental Estimates of the Gross Value of Irrigated Agricultural Production 2000–01 – 2009–10, (cat. no. 4610.0.55.008). <back
17 Land Account: Great Barrier Reef Region, Experimental Estimates, 2011, (cat. no. 4609.0.55.001). <back
18 Land Account: Great Barrier Reef Region, Experimental Estimates, 2011, (cat. no. 4609.0.55.001). <back
19 Commonwealth Scientific Industry and Research Organisation (CSIRO), Commonwealth of Australia. 2009. Overview of CSIRO Water Quality Research in the Great Barrier Reef, 2003–2008. <back
20 Pittini, M. 2011. Monetary Valuation for Ecosystem Accounting. <back
21 Eigenraam, M., Vardon, M., Hasker, J., Stoneham, G., and Chua, J. 2011. Valuation of Ecosystem Goods and Services in Victoria, Australia. <back
22 ABS, Australian National Accounts: Tourism Satellite Account, 2010–11. (ABS cat. no. 5249.0). <back
23 Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council (NRMMC). 2010. Australia's Biodiversity Conservation Strategy 2010–2030. <back
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This page last updated 9 May 2012