We are undertaking research to underpin the effective management of water quality in the Great Barrier Reef.

The challenge

Reef under threat

The long-term survival of Australia’s World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is under threat from various pressures, including declining water quality in the reef lagoon.

Hundreds of small streams transport runoff from the 423 000 km² Great Barrier Reef catchment.  

Hundreds of small streams transport runoff from the 423 000 km² Great Barrier Reef catchment.  ©Matt Curnock

More than 30 major rivers and hundreds of small streams transport runoff from the 423 000 km² Great Barrier Reef catchment to the Reef lagoon.

Pollutants (such as sediment, nutrients and pesticides) in waters that flow from agricultural lands in the catchments adjacent to the Reef have been found to be the major cause of water quality decline.

Our response

Towards long term protection and sustainable use

CSIRO is conducting research in the GBR region to ensure the long-term protection and restoration of reef ecosystems and the sustainability of agricultural land uses.

We are investing in research to support the development, implementation and evaluation of on-ground actions, plans, policies and governance arrangements to improve water quality in the reef catchment and lagoon.

Future science challenges

The main science challenges we are looking to address in the GBR region include:

  • quantification of links between Great Barrier Reef catchment management and the health of reef ecosystems
  • development of monitoring approaches, linked modelling and monitoring techniques, and reporting frameworks to assess the health of reef ecosystems
  • development and verification of biophysical and socio-economic strategies for Reef catchment management that will improve water quality for protection and restoration of Reef ecosystems.

In addressing these challenges, we look forward to strengthening our research partnerships and collaborations in the Great Barrier Reef, and contributing our research capabilities to a combined effort to protect the Reef for future generations.

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