How people value different ecosystems within the Great Barrier Reef.


(a)CSIRO Land and Water, Townsville, Australia; College of Science and Engineering, James Cook University, Townsville, Australia. Electronic address: [Email]


Natural ecosystems hold great place within the hearts and lives of people, particularly those within which people live and work. However, whether people equally value natural ecosystems that they regularly frequent is effectively unknown. Such knowledge would greatly assist natural resource managers to better understand what they are protecting, why and for whom. In this paper we look at the different values that people hold for different ecosystems within the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). We test the relationship between eight different cultural values (using ecosystem services framing), and the use of seven different ecosystems (beaches, creeks and estuaries, islands and cays, inshore reefs, mid-shelf and outer reefs, open water, and shipwrecks) from face-to-face surveys of 1934 residents living within the GBR. We also look at whether the relationships that people have with each ecosystem inspires them to; (i) do more to help protect the GBR, (ii) learn more about the GBR, and (iii) feel personally affected if the health of the GBR declines. Results suggest that there are common reasons why all ecosystems are valued. All seven ecosystems were valued because they provide identity, quality of life and well-being, and inspired people to do more to help protect the GBR. Many were valued for their desirable and active way of life, learning about the environment through scientific discoveries, and learning about the condition of the GBR. However, some ecosystems were valued for special reasons. People that used beaches tended to have more pride in the World Heritage Area status of the GBR and appreciated the aesthetics of the GBR. People that used the mid-shelf and open-water areas were more likely to value biodiversity and aesthetics qualities. People that used inshore reefs were more likely to value economic benefits from the GBR. All residents said that they would be personally affected if the health of the GBR declined, except for those that used beaches, creeks and estuaries. Levels of concern for each of the ecosystems within the GBR varied, where people were more concerned about inshore areas than they were about coral reef condition. Specifically, people were most concerned about the level of rubbish on the beaches in their region and least about mangroves. These results suggest that, even though the GBR is valued in its entirety for many reasons, the GBR is not perceived as an entire ecosystem, but that people have different relationships within it. We discuss how environmental sustainability might be optimised through understanding and incentivising the multi-functionality of landscapes.


Coastal communities,Coastal management,Cultural ecosystem services,Human well-being,Nature's contribution to people,Value of nature,

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