Australia's Great Barrier Reef catchment is benefiting from public support for science and innovation as a result of collaborations between universities and publicly funded research agencies in the areas of rainforest and reef research.
The Catchment to Reef Joint Research Program (2003-2006), headed by Professor Richard Pearson of James Cook University, has been developing new tools to assess and monitor the health of catchments and inshore reefs of the Wet Tropics and Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Areas.
This initiative is one of the Case Studies cited in the Australian Vice-Chancellors' Committee (AVCC) submission to the Productivity Commission research study on public support for science and innovation.
It is one example of the significant benefits from public support for science and innovation.
AVCC President Professor Gerard Sutton said that the Catchment to Reef Program is tackling the problem of water quality from catchment to the Great Barrier Reef, which is widely recognised as one of Australia's most pressing and challenging environmental issues.
"Public support for this research program has been critical to ensuring ongoing economic, social and environmental returns from the research," Professor Sutton said.
"The Catchment to Reef research fills gaps in the knowledge of the effect that farming practices have had on the Great Barrier Reef. Importantly, the research will provide the Australian Government with effective tools and guidelines -- built on a sound scientific basis -- for monitoring the status and trends of water quality entering the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.
"The program is also developing a suite of education products which cater for different interests and end users - from individual farmers and community-based organisations to researchers, management agencies and other countries facing similar problems," Professor Sutton said.
The AVCC submission recommends that future support for science and innovation should be framed within a cohesive national innovation strategy.
The national innovation strategy should encompass of the nation's research and innovation and include:
(i) a national commitment to a target for Australian investment in research and innovation: 2% of GDP by 2010, and 3% of GDP by 2020;
(ii) a broad definition of innovation rather than a narrow definition restricted to technological process and product innovation;
(iii) a broad definition of "productivity" that recognises the many direct and indirect influences on productivity, and the role and impact of the social and behavioural sciences, the humanities, and other disciplines in the university sector on the national wealth, and welfare.
A copy of the AVCC submission is available from here.
Media Inquiries Callista Punch - phone: (02) 6285 8206 or 0400 166691
The Catchment to Reef Joint Research Program - new tools for mitigation and monitoring of water quality and ecosystem health
The problem of water quality from catchment to the Great Barrier Reef is widely recognised as one of Australia's most pressing and challenging environmental issues. The Catchment to Reef Joint Research Program (2003-2006) has undertaken research on the impact of agriculture and other land based activities on the Wet Tropics and the Great Barrier Reef lagoon. It has developed a suite of tools and strategies to enable land managers to mitigate the effects of human activities on water quality. The project has been be spearheaded jointly by the Cairns-based Rainforest CRC and the Townsville-based CRC for Reef Research, led by Professor Richard Pearson of James Cook University.
An essential component of the Catchment to Reef Program relates to converting the outputs of each task into tools that can be adopted by land users and managers across the catchment. Tools are tailored for, and communicated to, different uses throughout the community from school groups, to farmer and management agencies. While the research has taken place on selected catchments and inshore areas in the Wet Tropics region, outcomes from the program are applicable across all the Great Barrier Reef Catchments
The project commenced in 2003 with a budget of $5 million over three years. It is anticipated that with the closure of the Rainforest CRC and CRC for Reef Research in late September 2006, the activities of the Catchment to Reef program will be further developed under a Water Quality research theme within the new, Australian Government-funded Marine and Tropical Science Research Facility (MTSRF).
- The track records of the Rainforest CRC and the CRC for Reef Research contributed significantly to the successful bid for funding for this specific program. The project linked the two CRCs in the development of successful management practices for the two most economically important and popular World Heritage Areas in Australia.
- The research has enabled successful collaborations with the following organisations:
− Rainforest CRC
− CRC Reef
− Coastal CRC
− CRC Savannah
− Australian Institute of Marine Science
− Wet Tropics Management Authority
− Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority
− National Resource Management Board
− Queensland Department of Natural Resources
− Mines and Water
− Griffith University
− James Cook University.
The Catchment to Reef research will fill gaps in the knowledge of the effect that farming practices have had on the Great Barrier Reef. Importantly, the research will provide the Australian Government with effective tools and guidelines -- built on a sound scientific basis -- for monitoring the status and trends of water quality entering the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. This is particularly in relation to cases where excesses of nutrients, sediments and other contaminants into nearby coastal waters and the Great Barrier Reef lagoon impacts the viability and condition of these ecosystems and the industries that depend on them.
It will also identify alternative ways to measure the health of catchments and inshore reefs, and provide farmers and land managers with guidelines to help reduce loss of sediment and nutrients into waterways. The program has contributed to capacity building through its support of a number of postgraduate research and honours studies in relevant fields.
The findings of the Catchment to Reef research are being delivered in a range of media, such as an interactive DVD and accompanying synthesis booklet, technical reports and monitoring manuals, international and national forums and consultations. The range of products aims to cater for different interests and end users -- from individual farmers and community-based organisations to researchers and management agencies.