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2281ENV Economics And Natural Resources

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  • Course Code: 2281ENV
  • University: Griffith University
  • Country: Australia


Main Task
Identify and describe the major social benefits and costs associated with the conservation and careful protection of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). 
Secondary Task
Use an ecological economic perspective to help describe how the Reef might be sustainably managed.
Suggest how the social benefits and costs of conserving the Reef might be valued in economic terms (which valuation techniques would apply?)
What framework(s) would you recommend to decision?makers to help make decisions about the use and conservation of the GBR? (e.g. benefit cost analysis (BCA), MCA or other assessment frameworks). Based on your research, discuss the case for conserving the GBR and limiting or modifying the main activities or driving forces that are putting pressure of the Reef’s vitality.



The Great Barrier Reef is one of the world’s biggest coral reef, and it is composed of more than 2900 reefs and approximately 900 islands that stretch for more than 2000 kilometers over an area of approximately 350,000 square kilometers. The reef is on the coast of Queensland Australia. The reef is composed of billions of minute organisms commonly known as coral polyps. A large part of this area is covered by the Great Barrier Reef marine park. The park is helpful in limiting the impacts of human consumption like in fishing and tourism.

The Great Barrier Reef for a long time has been used by the Australian and the strait islander people and forms an important part of the culture and spirituality of the people who live around the place. The reef is an important destination for tourists mostly in Whitsunday islands and the claims region. Tourism is one of the most important economic activities in Australia. Research shows that tourism as an economic activity yields AUD 3.1 billion per year. Research shows that coral bleaching is widely spread and has been affecting the Northern part of the reefs and the warming temperatures of the ocean have caused this. As a result of high temperatures of water, there has been an emerging threat of the increase in global climate change (Bennett, 2014).

The reef supports a diversity of lives including the endangered species which in most cases may be very endemic in the reef system. Cetaceans is an example of a species that was identified at the Great Barrier Reef, and the species include dwarf minke whale, indo pacific and also the humpback. An approximate of 1500 species of fish live in these reefs including red throat emperor, coral trout, and red bass among others. Seventeen snake species live in these reefs in warm waters of up to 50 meters deep, and they are more common in the southern than in the northern part of the area. Those found in the Great Barrier Reef are not endangered and are not endemic too. Saltwater crocodiles live in the mangrove and also the salt marshes near the reefs on the coast (ohnson & Marshall, 2015). An approximate of 125 species of sharks dwell in the reefs together with stingray, skates and even a chimera. The mollusks in these reefs amount to approximately five thousand species while the frogs that inhabit the islands amount to around seven thousand species.


At least two hundred and fifteen species of birds’ nest this Great Barrier Reef on the islands and some of them include white-bellied sea eagle among others. The most nesting sites in these areas are found on the northern and southern parts, and they use the sites to breed. There are more than 2000 tree species also supported by this area, and birds mostly propagate the plants.

The Great Barrier Reef is named one of the most significant global icon which is under much pressure. The most significant risks to the barrier remain unchanged notwithstanding the right actions that were taken in the year 2009. The most dangerous threats faced by the reef include climate change, poor quality of water, the d3evelopment of the coast which affects the inhabitant that support the reef and the illegal fishing that takes place in the area (Furnas, 2014). There exist cumulative effects of these risks that weaken the resilience of the reef and hence affect its ability to recover from any serious disturbances. Some of the risks are also discussed below.

Climate change is considered to be one of the greatest threats in the Great Barrier Reef. The latter leads to ocean warming which leads to an increase in coral bleaching. Coral bleaching has been brought up by the increased temperatures. With the continued global warming, coral reefs are expected to be popular as years go by. Coral bleaching is known to cause increased susceptibility to diseases which lead to ecological effects for the reef societies (De’ath , Fabricius , & Sweatman, 2015).

Climate change has diverse effects on the living organisms in the reefs. The increased temperature range makes some species of fish to vacate their habitats, and this leads to increased chick mortality in the seabirds that are predatory. The sea turtles that live in the habitat will also be affected in their population that is available in that habitat ( Lough & Fabricius, 2013).

Pollution is another threatening factor that is affecting the Great Barrier Reef and also the declining quality of water. During the events of tropical floods, the rivers emanating from the North Eastern part of Australia. Approximately, 90% of this runoff comes from farms. The farming practices that are practiced in or near the Great Barrier Reef damage the reef as a result of overgrazing, increased deposits and runoff of fertilizers and agricultural sediments, herbicides, pesticides among others (Marshall & Baird, 2015). The latter poses a very great danger to the health of living organisms living in the area and also the biodiversity of the reefs. The sediments contain high levels of copper and other heavy metals that come from Papua New Guinea and they pose a very high risk to the North Part of Great Barrier Reef and also in Torres Strait.


The disappearance of the coastal wetland

The runoff is brought about and triggered by the loss of the coastal wetlands which are natural filters for toxins also aid in the deposition of sentiments. The poor water quality is thought to be caused by the increased competition of the levels of light and oxygen from the algae (Randall . , Allen , & Steene, 2015).

The fertilizers that are used for farming release nitrogen and potassium into the ecosystem of the ocean. This limiting nutrients lead to an increased growth of nutrients and finally, this leads to the depletion of oxygen that is available for the other oceanic creatures and hence causing an imbalance to the biodiversity in the areas that are affected (De’ath , Fabricius , & Sweatman, 2015).

Phytoplankton is also increased by the high levels of fertilizers. Research shows that doubling of chlorophyll. Research shows that the doubling of chlorophyll in water leads to an increase in the tenfold as a result of erosion of the firm soils which in turn causes detrimental effects on the coral (Maxwell, 2013).

The Queensland Nickel alone is a mining industry that 2009 to 2011 discharged approximately 516 tons of nitrate-laden. The company has been advised severally to develop a management plan to abolish this hazard (Babcock & Bull, 2015).

The accidents of transportation have become a pressing concern for some time. Several commercial ships have been passing through the Great barrier route the reef pilots consider this route as a safe one although it is not an easy route. They think it is a safer route because of the backups in the event of a mechanical failure because a ship can sit safely as repairing is done (De’ath , Fabricius , & Sweatman, 2015).

The total economic frameworks problem that is addressed in this discussion is that there should be more funding and action aimed at protecting the GBR. The justification for funding is that GBR has an infinite value and that the annual cost is $ 5.5 billion regarding the expenditure of the area. The atomistic approach will be used to add each value and then sum them up altogether. The combined approach, on the other hand, will value the groups of elements together (Furnas, 2014).


The standard resource economic resource tries to identify the potential changes to the resource allocation and also compares the benefits of the cost of changing. The value framework for BGR can be seen in the table below.

Some of the key categories identified includes commercial fishing, recreational fishing tourism, and international residents, indirect values of the protection of the coastal region, nonuse values accrued to the Australians and also the non-use values accrued to the foreign residents (Marshall & Baird, 2015).

As seen above, the producer surplus for the commercial fish appears very high. It assumes a GOS of about 36%  of the value of production is also inaccuracy in the replacement cost approach and there are also problems with then additional nonuse values in that: the sources that are studied are not updated they are also very limited. There is also a shortcoming since this approach involves the transfer of the marginal values without adjustments or even the comprehension of the theoretical values (De’ath, , 2012). The problems encountered in the transfer of the non-use values include the existence of a limited marginal change and the fact that while the direct use values can be assessed with ease for the whole GBR, it is practically not possible to do it with the non-use values ( Lough & Fabricius, 2013).

To have a concrete analysis; it is advisable  to frame the analysis with respect to the marginal improvements to protection that is; we can exclude a 10% decline in health and ask ourselves the  value of TEV of 10% improvement in the GBR health (De’ath, , 2012). More appropriate analysis can also be done when we assume that the direct use and direct use values can possibly be scaled to the GBR health that is; a 10% decline in the health sector can lead to a 10% decline in the use and values (Marshall & Baird, 2015).

Extrapolation across the Australian population has been used in the generation of the estimates of value. Making reference to the assumptions about the above representation, the values range from $ 433M to $ 576M given a 5% rate of discount, $ 558 to $ 575M given a 2.7% rate of discount. A 10% has value of approximately $ 5 billion given at a discount rate of 5% for all households in Australia which includes the non-use and recreation. The TEV approach proves to be more useful when it is applied to the marginal changes since it allows for consistency in the use of use and non-use values. The TEV improvement of 1% amounts to approximately $ 631M (Randall . , Allen , & Steene, 2015).


In valuing the reef, research was done to get the willingness of people to pay for the same through taxes and levies. Results showed that A $ 68 per head per annum. The research also used the travel cost method used to estimate the willingness to pay for the GBR based on the time and money people spend to visit the place. This came with its shortcoming since it is not easy to measure the realistic amount in the willingness of people to pay (Babcock & Bull, 2015). The respondents mat also respond strategically more so if they think that they will be slugged with a GBR levy. The responds may conflate this environmental issue with the other environmental issues hence make it not easy to get the appropriate information needed. The methodology applied in this report leaves out the non-market value provided by the reef and which is very important (these includes the ecosystem services). ( Lough & Fabricius, 2013) For instance, the coral reefs provide a protection to the storm and also provide protection against erosion. There are nurseries that comprise about 25% of the marine animals which have both commercial and existence value and are in most cases not accounted for. Value put on the GBR reef hides the fact that it is not replaceable. Any loss put on items like GBR is never cases where value on ecosystem is not replaceable and there exists irreversible losses, a more appropriate framework for decision making that can be used is the precautionary principle ( Lough & Fabricius, 2013).

For the cases where there is no certainty regarding the impacts of effects of the new development on an asset of development, decision makers are supposed to be very cautious and also minimize on the maximum loss. Assignation of any value to the GBR might be appropriate under the precautionary principle in the estimation of the maximum loss. However, the pricing of all values would be needed especially the ecosystem services. GBR is a priceless asset and hence it should be left like that and act accordingly. In a case where the precautionary principle would be applied in assessing an ecologically sustainable development, it will be just for our main icon of the environment (Randall . , Allen , & Steene, 2015).


 The prioritization and protection of GBR is apolitical issue of discussion and needs a lot of political will which cannot be easily solved through pricing and economics. There is need for everyone to take action whether big or small to reduce the threats and therefore restore the condition of GBR. This will lead to the improvement in the outlook of the reef. The projects should be funded since they aim at the protection and restoration of the Great Barrier Reef.



Lough , J. M., & Fabricius, K. E. (2013). Declining coral calcification on the Great Barrier Reef. Sydney.

Babcock , R. C., & Bull, G. D. (2015). Synchronous spawnings of 105 scleractinian coral species on the Great Barrier Reef. Marine Biology, 56(3), 67-78.

Bennett, I. (2014). The great barrier reef. Melbourne.

De’ath, , G. (2012). "The 27–year decline of coral cover on the Great Barrier Reef and its. " Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, (pp. 17995?17999). Melbourne.

Furnas, M. M. (2014). Catchments and corals: terrestrial runoff to the Great Barrier Reef. Australian Institute of Marine Science & CRC Reef Research Centre.

Marshall , P. A., & Baird, A. H. (2015). Bleaching of corals on the Great Barrier Reef: differential susceptibilities among taxa. Coral reefs, 19(2), 45-67.

Maxwell, W. G. (2013). Atlas of the great barrier reef. Brisbane.

ohnson , J. E., & Marshall, P. A. (2015). Climate change and the Great Barrier Reef: a vulnerability assessment. Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the Australian Greenhouse Office. Kolkata.

Randall . , J. E., Allen , G. R., & Steene, R. C. (2015). Fishes of the great barrier reef and coral sea. University of Hawaii Press.

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