The Great Barrier Reef Climate Change Action Plan 2007 - 2012


The Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is a World Heritage Area located off the east coast of Queensland, and is the world’s largest continuous reef system, home to more than 1600 species of fish, 600 corals, innumerable invertebrates, and iconic animals such as dugongs, sea turtles, dolphins and whales. In addition to its environmental significance, the GBR supports a range of industries, especially tourism and commercial fishing; is central to the culture of Traditional Owners; is a major recreational area; provides an internationally important scientific resource; and is an important area for defence training.

Management of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is the responsibility of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) working in partnership with the Australian and Queensland Governments, private sector organisations, research institutions, and a range of stakeholders across local communities.

The Great Barrier Reef Climate Change Action Plan 2007-2012 is an adaptive management plan to protect the Reef and enhance its resilience. It is based on work done for the 2007 foundation publication ‘Climate Change and the Great Barrier Reef: A Vulnerability Assessment’ which assessed the vulnerability of the Reef to climate change impacts and risks, and considered appropriate responses.

The Action Plan provided a platform to leverage the shared interests of organisations including: the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, the Reef tourism industry, Traditional Owners and other Indigenous groups, deliver outputs and outcomes of value and build ongoing support across communities and industries. The project was underpinned by good scientific research across multiple disciplines, and local knowledge. This provided an evidence base to consider complex issues and design strategic responses that reflect a holistic approach to understanding climate change risks and impacts across economic, social, and environmental domains.

The initial five year Action Plan laid the scientific foundations and action oriented partnerships that have resulted in mainstreaming climate change mitigation and adaptation. Building on these earlier stages, a review of key outcomes informed the development and launch of a second stage Adaptation Strategy and Action Plan 2012 2017.

Risks and Impacts Addressed 

Climate change impacts on the environment, society and economy of the GBR such as increases in water temperature resulting in coral bleaching, ocean acidification and more frequent and intense extreme weather events.

Drivers for Adaptation Action 

A pre-cursor to the Action Plan was the 2007 foundation publication ‘Climate Change and the Great Barrier Reef: A Vulnerability Assessment’.

Outcomes Achieved 

The Great Barrier Reef Climate Change Action Plan 2007 - 2012 has supported deeper understanding of climate change and its impacts in the Great Barrier Reef region; and this knowledge is now informing climate change adaptation policy and practice for reef ecosystems in Australia and beyond.

The action plan has driven broad engagement on climate change with specific stakeholder groups such as traditional owners, tourism operators and sea food industry; and built stronger ongoing relationships across the public, private, community and research sectors.

Over the period 2007 - 2012 the Great Barrier Reef Climate Change Action Plan:

  • The Great Barrier Reef Climate Change Action Plan 2007 - 2012 was recognised at a national level and a specific action item was recommended in the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) 2007 National Climate Change Adaptation Framework
  • Delivered over 250 individual projects or activities aligned to the Action Plan’s four focus areas
  • Produced a diverse range of knowledge resources, including more than 150 reports and papers
  • Created scientific knowledge underpinning new decision making tools and processes (e.g.: developing and refining remote sensing tools that forecast coral bleaching and coral disease outbreak risks).