The Great Barrier Reef: An Environmental History (Earthscan Oceans)
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The Great Barrier Reef is located along the coast of Queensland in north-east Australia and is the world's largest coral reef ecosystem. Designated a World Heritage Area, it has been subject to increasing pressures from tourism, fishing, pollution and climate change, and is now protected as a marine park. This book provides an original account of the environmental history of the Great Barrier Reef, based on extensive archival and oral history research.
It documents and explains the main human impacts on the Great Barrier Reef since European settlement in the region, focusing particularly on the century from 1860 to 1960 which has not previously been fully documented, yet which was a period of unprecedented exploitation of the ecosystem and its resources. The book describes the main changes in coral reefs, islands and marine wildlife that resulted from those impacts.
In more recent decades, human impacts on the Great Barrier Reef have spread, accelerated and intensified, with implications for current management and conservation practices. There is now better scientific understanding of the threats faced by the ecosystem. Yet these modern challenges occur against a background of historical levels of exploitation that is little-known, and that has reduced the ecosystem's resilience. The author provides a compelling narrative of how one of the world's most iconic and vulnerable ecosystems has been exploited and degraded, but also how some early conservation practices emerged.
photograph depicting turtle hunting in the Fitzroy River was identified more precisely as a result of an oral history interview with one of the turtle fishers in the photograph. 32 Reconstructing changes in the Great Barrier Reef Therefore, the analysis of documentary, oral and visual data together allowed the cross-referencing of sources and allowed a fuller historical narrative to be written; this was one advantage of the use of an array of qualitative methods in my research. S u mmary
grow upwards at a similar rate, forming a barrier within which further reef development was possible. However, during the early Holocene period of steady sea level rise, the position of the shoreline migrated westwards, resulting in the displacement of the Holocene sediment deposition zone across the shelf, with the result that sediment did not accumulate to any great depth in any particular area. However, once modern sea level was reached, around 6,000 years ago, the pattern of sediment
1885 1886 1887 1888 1889 Year (b) 30,000 Value (£) 25,000 20,000 15,000 10,000 5,000 0 1880 1881 1882 1883 1884 1885 1886 1887 1888 1889 Year Figure 5.1 (a) Weights and (b) values of bêche-de-mer harvested in Queensland, 1880– 1889. Source: Compiled from data provided in Saville-Kent (1890a, p730) be harvested at Kennedy Reef, near Hinchinbrook Island. At all the places to the south of Cape Melville that he had visited, he claimed ‘the reefs were skinned’; another area of particular
prominent position among the most important commercial industries of this Colony’, and stated that, from 1884–1888, the average annual export value of pearl-shell was £69,000, more than double the combined value of the bêche-de-mer and oyster fisheries in Queensland. In 1890, Saville-Kent (1890a) reported, 1,000 workers were employed in the pearl-shell industry at Thursday Island, and 93 licences for pearling luggers were granted there, which was a reduction compared with the numbers operating
Of the other islands in the Capricorn-Bunker Group, Lady Musgrave Island was worked by guano miners during the 1890s, but little is known about the scale of that operation. However, ridges on the island resulting from the removal of guano were visible to Steers (1938, p54) during his visit in 1936. Tryon Island was probably mined for guano from 1898–1900, but Heatwole (1984, p28) suggested that those operations must have been small, since few indications of mining remain in the landscape. The