Biodiversity is defined as the variety of species, their genetic types and the ecosystems they form when they interact together. The conservation of biodiversity is not a luxury; it is essential to the long-term social and economic well being of society. Simply, ecosystems provide us with services in exactly the same way as built infrastructure. For example; mangroves and beach vegetation protect our coastline from storm surges and erosion, wetlands purify and store water, forests and woodlands remove and store greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, seagrass beds and coral reefs support fish stocks, and ecosystems such as rainforests and islands are the basis of a tourism industry worth billions of dollars annually. It is very important to be aware that just like built infrastructure, ecosystems also need to be repaired and maintained if they become damaged, so that they continue to provide us with these services.
It is this task that is the focus of Reef Catchments’ Biodiversity, Coasts & Marine program. Our approach has its roots in sound business principles. We use the very best available evidence to identify priorities; we work with partners who share responsibility for management of biodiversity, we attract investment and share the cost of this management, and continually review and improve our practices.
Our coastal ecosystems are central to our way of life, have enormous biodiversity value, and are our primary defence against storm surges. However, climate change, and historical mistakes in land-use has created vulnerabilities in this defence. We work to rebuild these defences on publically owned land, whilst striving to ensure that recreational values are not compromised. Islands are often considered ‘Arks’ for biodiversity values. These values can often be more cost effectively conserved on islands than on the mainland. For example feral animals can be permanently excluded from islands and thus their impact on biodiversity can be removed. The creation of ‘Island Arks’ where biodiversity is show cased is a key driver of our future tourism industry.