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Investing wisely to save the Great Barrier Reef

CSIRO science is being used to improve land management practices on farmland to help reduce run-off of sediments, nutrients and pesticides on to the Great Barrier Reef.

A decision support process facilitated and designed by CSIRO, Australian Government Reef Rescue team and the Bureau of Rural Sciences informed the Australian Government's decision about how it allocates more than $50 million between reef natural resource management regions.

The funds are part of the Australian Government's Reef Rescue initiative.

"These funds are a vital instrument to help protect an asset of national and international significance," CSIRO project leader Dr Stefan Hajkowicz, said.

"However, if spread evenly over the entire GBR catchment, these funds will achieve very little. Careful targeting of the investment is crucial.

"Scientists estimate that 70 per cent of sediment pollution comes from just 20 per cent of the total catchment area. Our task is to build a model that helps decision makers invest wisely."

The decision support process takes into account all of the factors that determine the priority areas for spending such as ecological values of the reef, tourist visitation, risks posed by agricultural run-off, land use and availability of improved land management practices.

Leading scientists from CSIRO, James Cook University, Australian Institute of Marine Science, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the Queensland Government worked in collaboration to design the process and provide the necessary scientific input to support the decision.

Stakeholders were consulted via surveys and workshops held with regional natural resource management agencies, agricultural industry representatives and conservation groups.

"The strength of this modelling approach is that it can accommodate input from wide-ranging fields of scientific expertise and stakeholder backgrounds," Dr Hajkowicz said.

"It provides a means to assess a complex problem and support choices in a manner which is transparent, auditable and analytically robust".

This work forms part of a larger effort by the CSIRO to design and facilitate the application of decision support tools that help Australian governments and companies prioritise their natural resource management investment choices to obtain the best return for the environment.


Contact: Larelle Mcmillan
CSIRO Australia

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