status

In Progress

Priority Areas

  • Climate Change
  • Endangered Species
  • Management

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There is an immediate and important need to maintain climate change refuges to protect critical habitats throughout the Reef (in land and in water), essentially serving as ‘arks’.

Reef Islands focusses on protecting the Reef’s habitat refuges – namely its islands.

The Project

Reef Islands Initiative is the establishment of a network of change refuges to protect critical habitats on five Great Barrier Reef islands - a $AUD 14 million, 10-year program.

The Great Barrier Reef is under increasing pressure from a combination of local threats and global climate change. With these pressures projected to grow into the future, reef islands and their adjoining reefs will play an increasingly important role as habitat refuges - home to thousands of species of animals, many facing an uncertain future in the face of global climate change

Lady Elliot Island on the southern Great Barrier Reef was the first new climate change ‘ark’ included in the Reef Island Refuge Initiative in 2018. A tailored on-ground action program is being developed to expand and accelerate the existing, award-winning environmental work already underway to further boost and accelerate the island’s resilience to climate change and other stresses.

The development and implementation of Reef Islands will be delivered through the collaboration and engagement of a wide range of stakeholders and organisations, that include (but not limited to): Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority; Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service; Traditional Owners; Research organisations; and Industry.

The Islands

Initial prioritisation based on an assessment of the Great Barrier Reef islands undertaken by the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority have identified a number of island groups as preliminary priority islands based on current condition and understanding:

The Foundation launched this new program in 2018, starting with the iconic Lady Elliot Island.

Lady Elliot Island

Lady Elliot Island is one of five Great Barrier Reef islands/island groups prioritised for urgent action based on an assessment of its biodiversity, conservation value, and threat level to these values carried out by Queensland Parks and Wildlife and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

​An astonishing transformation

Past and present custodians of Lady Elliot Island have worked tirelessly to transform the former guano mining site back to the island's previous natural state.

The Reef Islands Initiative will expand and accelerate this recovery to boost the island’s resilience to climate change and other stresses and create a haven to help precious Reef wildlife and plants to survive in an increasingly challenging environment.

Lady Elliot Island on the southern Great Barrier Reef is a remarkable place that hosts some of the most extraordinary marine and terrestrial life. It has the second highest diversity of breeding seabirds of any island on the Great Barrier Reef and is one of only two places on the Reef where endangered red-tailed tropic birds breed. Endangered loggerhead and green turtles also nest there and it’s renowned as a haven for giant manta rays and many other marine creatures.

Rare red-tailed tropicbird mother and chick on Lady Elliot Island
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Manta Ray, Manta alfredi

First new climate change ‘ark’

Experts and stakeholders came together in early 2018 to develop an on-ground action program to expand and accelerate the existing, award-winning environmental work already underway on Lady Elliot Island to further boost and accelerate the island’s resilience to climate change and other stresses. 

Partners

Reef Islands is an initiative of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, supported by funding from Lendlease, the Australian Government, the Queensland Government and the Fitzgerald Family Foundation.

Project Partners